Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he may join the ranks of fellow Democrats in voting against the legislation that would extend tax breaks to all Americans, including the very wealthy. Some Democrats have gone so far as to call President Obama the “negotiator-in-chief” for brokering this week’s deal with Republicans on the bill, but Harkin says that’s inappropriate talk.
“I am not going to pile on President Obama,” Harkin says. “The finger of blame here points squarely at the Republicans who made it clear they would kill unemployment insurance benefits extensions and kill tax cuts for the middle class if they didn’t get their tax breaks for the top two-percent.”
Harkin says he’s “inclined to vote no” on the bill but won’t commit until he’s able to read the final version. From what’s been made public, he says the plan gives far too much money to those who don’t need it.
“What is galling is that the Republicans got these new tax breaks for the wealthy without a fight and at great cost in terms of higher deficits,” Harkin says. “As I said last week, we should’ve kept the Republicans here until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We should’ve made them defend their shameful tactics holding millions of unemployed Americans hostage to demand more tax cuts for the rich.”
Harkin says he was surprised at how the agreement between the White House and Congressional Republicans transpired, without any real debate and without a threat of a presidential veto. Harkin says the tens of billions of dollars that will go into the tax breaks would be better spent on infrastructure projects which would put Americans back to work.
“The Congressional Budget Office ranks tax cuts for the rich as dead last among the various options for boosting the economy and creating jobs,” Harkin says. “The fact is that wealthy Americans don’t need these new tax cuts and our country can’t afford them. It just raises the deficit and the debt.” He says there would have to be several things changed about the bill in order for him to support it, including: more help on earned income tax credits and more child care tax credits for low-income families.
Harkin also wants something included to ensure there is another extension of unemployment benefits if the nation’s jobless rate remains above 6 or 7% a year from now.