Even though President Obama wants to kill the Bush tax cuts and 74% of Americans agree with him, there are 7 Democratic senators who support extending the unpopular tax cuts.
Obstruction from the right has become a familiar topic in American politics, but who would have guessed that it is obstruction from Democrats that is giving Senate Republicans their best chance to extend the Bush tax cuts.
According to The Hill, there are a group of seven Democratic senators that are supporting Republican efforts to extend the Bush tax cuts. These senators fall into two categories, Democrats who are retiring from the Senate this year and those who are up for reelection.
Two retiring Democratic senators, Jim Webb (D-VA) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) have gone on record as opposing killing the Bush tax cuts. A bigger concern for Democrats is that there are five incumbent senators who also oppose letting the Bush tax cuts expire. Within that group, four are running for reelection this year. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Sen. Mark Pryor is up for reelection in 2014 which has helped him delay a decision on the issue, but being that he faces a tough reelection campaign in Arkansas, the odds are that his own political survival may require voting for an extension of the Bush tax cuts.
Within the context of polling, the position of the four Democrats up for reelection appears to make little sense. According to a new National Journal poll, only 26% of Americans want to see the tax cuts extended for another year. An even smaller eighteen percent support Mitt Romney’s position of making the tax cuts permanent. The opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts stretches across party lines and income divisions.
In short, this is a very unpopular policy. So why are Democrats defying the will of majority of the people and betraying their own president by supporting it?
The answer is Citizens United. Democrats in close reelection races are terrified of the millions of dollars in negative ads that will be run against them by shady outside groups if they oppose the Bush tax cuts.
Sen. Bernie Sanders recently described how Citizens United is being used to threaten and intimidate senators, “This is unprecedented and it is the most savage attack against American democracy, and the concept of one person, one vote that we have seen in our lifetime, and what it is is saying if you are a billionaire, you can buy elections. You can by politicians, and by the way, on the floor of the Senate, on the floor of the House, you can intimidate members, because you will be saying to them if you are going to vote against Wall Street, or the insurance companies, or the military industrial complex, you just do that, and we’re going to have millions of dollars in thirty second ads in your state this weekend.”
By announcing that they oppose getting rid of the Bush tax cuts, these seven Democrats have seriously weakened President Obama’s negotiating position. Thanks to their betrayal, Mitch McConnell finds himself just four votes short of the total needed to pass an extension of the tax cuts.
The American people don’t want the tax cuts extended for another year, but a group of cowardly Senate Democrats do.
If the president wins reelection, he would have the option of vetoing any extension of the Bush tax cuts that the Senate passes in the fall, but if Democrats allow Republican to load the bill with several poison pills this may not be an option. For example, the Bush tax cuts could be paired with tax cuts for the middle class, or more funding for unemployment benefits, or the transportation bill that would create two million jobs, which would put the president in the position of having to reject things the American people support along with the tax cuts for the rich.
Without the support of all of the Senate Democrats, the president’s bargaining position is diminished.
So before we see another stupid headline like this,
the left and all Americans need to take a good hard look at how a group of Senate Democrats defied their wishes, weakened their president, and sold them down the river.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association