WASHINGTON (CN) – Congress is expected to start debate this week on extending Bush-era tax cuts for middle-class and wealthy Americans as it reconvenes for a short fall session before mid-term elections.
In the past few weeks, President Obama has been pushing for Congress to extend tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 for the middle class, while letting tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans – those that make $250,000 or more – expire. Obama says letting tax cuts continue for the top 2 percent would cost the government $700 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been at odds with Obama on the issue, expressing strong support for extending tax cuts for both the middle class and top earners. Boehner argues that raising taxes on the wealthiest would hurt small business and hamper hiring.
But Boehner surprised Democrats on Sunday when he said during a televised interview that he would not vote against letting tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
“If the only option I have is to vote for those at two hundred and fifty and below, of course, I’m going to do that,” Boehner said, adding that he would still fight to extend current tax rates for all Americans.
After the interview, the White House expressed its skepticism of the sincerity of Boehner’s promise.
“We welcome John Boehner’s change in position and support for the middle class tax cuts,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement, “but time will tell if his actions will be anything but continued support for the failed policies that got us into this mess.”
Boehner’s statement was viewed by some political analysts as a way of stripping the White House of a recent talking point, that Republicans are the party of “No,” acting as legislative obstructionists.
The Senate is also scheduled take up small business legislation during the fall session designed to ease up credit for small businesses, which Obama has repeatedly called the engine of economic growth.