WASHINGTON — Democrats in the House of Representatives voted Thursday to reject the White House-Republican tax-cut deal, but the package to extend all the Bush-era tax reductions appeared likely to win enactment eventually.
The House Democrats' message — that the tax package shouldn't come to the House floor without changes that tilt benefits more to the poor and middle class — slowed the momentum that had been building behind the plan. Nevertheless, the White House is working in both houses of Congress to build majorities composed of near-united Republicans and moderate Democrats.
The voice vote in a closed House Democratic caucus was no surprise. Liberals, who dominate the House Democratic caucus, had railed against the plan all week as unjustifiably generous to the wealthy.
"If it's take it or leave it, we'll leave it," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
House Democrats talked about making changes to the deal, though it wasn't clear whether they have consensus on specifics or whether the White House would agree to any alterations.
At the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seemed unworried by the House Democrats' stand, saying, "I think at the end of the day this will get done" after "a long and winding process."
House Democratic leaders were vague about their next moves.
"We will continue discussions with the president and our Democratic and Republican colleagues in the days ahead to improve the proposal before it comes to the House floor for a vote," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The Senate was moving toward a vote on the plan, but probably not for several days.
Throughout the day, the White House publicized endorsements of the deal from around the country, including from Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Colorado's Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. Bill Ritter, and New York Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo, all Democrats, as well as independent Gov.-elect Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and the United Auto Workers.
A new McClatchy-Marist poll found that the public is ready to spread the blame should the tax rates be allowed to expire Dec. 31, resulting in higher income taxes for all.
One-third of registered voters would hold Republicans in Congress the most to blame if the rate cuts expire, while 29 percent would blame Democrats the most, 19 percent would hold Obama the most responsible and 10 percent would blame all of them. Nine percent were unsure.
The survey of 873 registered voters was conducted from Dec. 2 through Wednesday. The Obama-GOP plan was unveiled Monday. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, and voters' attitudes didn't change after the deal was announced.
The survey "reflects the general sense that people want Washington to move along, turn the page and reach agreement," poll director Lee Miringoff said.
If not, each party's loyalists were prepared to blame the other side. Among Republicans, 47 percent would blame congressional Democrats the most, while another 31 percent would fault Obama. Among Democrats, 58 percent would blame congressional Republicans, while 15 percent would blame Obama and 11 percent congressional Democrats.
Independents split, with 32 percent saying Republicans, 30 percent Democrats, 16 percent Obama and 11 percent everyone.
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