WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday expressed confidence that Congress will pass the tax cut compromise negotiated by President Barack Obama and Republican leaders, even as Democratic lawmakers continued to criticize the president for giving in too easily.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he wished the president would play hardball with Republicans right up to News Year's Eve, the day the Bush-era tax cuts expire, insisting on legislation that extends tax cuts only for the middle class. But he didn't expect that to happen.
"I don't see that kind of a willingness to fight that hard, where he will take that kind of a position, and that's what's necessary," Levin said of Obama on CSPAN's "Newsmakers."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., House Democrats' chief negotiator in the tax cut talks, told "Fox News Sunday" he thought most people "just believe that on this issue the administration did get out-negotiated."
Still, there was a growing feeling that the compromise would pass, extending tax cuts for the wealthy as well as the middle class for two years in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits and a cut in Social Security taxes.
The Senate is scheduled to vote at 3 p.m. Monday to cut off debate, an effort that needs the support of 60 of the 100 senators. The cutoff is expected to pass, setting up a final vote probably no later than Wednesday. If the bill passes, it heads to the House.
Asked about the bill's prospects in the House, where Democrats last week agreed that the bill should not come to the floor in its current form, White House senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union," "We'll prevail there because at the end of the day, no one wants to see taxes go up on 150 million Americans on January 1."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., agreed. "I think it's quite possible the tax cut extension will be passed," he said on CNN. Cummings is expected to vote against the bill, however.
Obama, Axelrod said, will keep pushing Democrats to back the compromise.
"He's been talking to members of Congress all through the weekend and before. He'll continue to do that," he said. "And what he's going to say to them is there's a tremendous amount of good in this package that will help their constituents, that will help the broader public and that will move our economy forward."
Frustration with Obama has been building since the agreement was announced last Monday. On Friday, Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., held the Senate floor for eight and a half hours, railing against the bill.
On Sunday, there was little joy among Democrats. Levin said Obama should hang tough on allowing tax cuts for the wealthy to expire "and (if) the Republicans at the end of December want to continue to filibuster a tax cut aimed at helping middle income people instead of upper income people, that is something which they will have to take on their own heads."
Van Hollen said that Democratic leaders in the House wouldn't block the bill from being considered, though he said he hoped for changes.
House Democrats are particularly upset at the measure's estate tax provisions. They'd expected a 45 percent rate; instead, the compromise has a 35 percent rate on individual estates of more than $5 million.
Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said he understood House Democrats' feelings
Over the last 22 months, "they really have sacrificed for this president," Durbin said. "They've gone out on a limb, and even more than the Senate they've shown loyalty to his agenda and paid a dear price for it in the last election.
"And now, the one defining issue, the real difference between Democrats and Republicans in terms of economic justice, it appears this agreement doesn't honor what we think are the true values and principles of our party," he said.
"I would just say to them we have to accept the reality."
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