Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, should force a New Year's Eve showdown with Republicans, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Sunday.
The Bush-era income tax cuts expire Dec. 31. Obama last week agreed to a compromise with congressional Republicans to extend all the cuts; votes are expected this week. But many Demorats are furious, saying he should have pushed hard to extend the cuts only for those earning less than $250,000.
Levin, interviewed on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" by McClatchy and Congressional Quarterly reporters, outlined the New Year's Eve scenario.
He was asked if Obama is pushing hard enough for the legislation he wants. Generally, yes, said Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"The one thing where I'm not satisfied with the presidential push is that I believe he should use the bully pulpit to say something like this on taxes:
'This is the thing I believe in as president.' Go through the list of things he believes. (Say) 'I don't believe in tax cuts for upper bracket people or that estate tax bonanza for the rich...and I'm going to fight this."
To wage that fight, Levin said, Obama should say, he's going to "use all the power he has on the bully pulpit and urge the Senate to stay in, right up to the new year, 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 poeople, that is something which they will have to take on their own heads."
But Levin doesn't expect that scenario to unfold. "That's the problem, that 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 in the Senate and House," Levin said.
"These are tests of wills, and we need all the help we can from the president," he said. "Is the help thee? Yes. Does it come to the extend I would like to see it in the way I would like to see it? No, it has not come in that form which I think is essential to come down in the right way, what I believe to be the best way in terms, for instance, of the tax bill."