Washington — The deal being hammered out in the Senate Monday to avoid the fiscal cliff may be tough for some liberals, including those in the Connecticut delegation, to swallow.
The proposal would raise about $600 billion over 10 years, far less than President Obama and congressional Democrats had wanted, by allowing taxes to rise on households earning $450,000 or more a year and through other tax increases.
While some liberals are balking at the deal, Sen. Joe Lieberman has embraced it. “I don’t agree no deal is better than a bad deal,” he said.
But others, including Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, say they won’t vote for the deal because it fails to do what the president campaigned on: raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. Harkin, and other liberals, think social programs will be cut instead to avoid “sequestration,” a number of deep automatic cuts slated to occur Wednesday.
“This is one Democrat that doesn’t agree with that — at all,” Harkin said. “I just think that’s grossly unfair.” Harkin said he is meeting with fellow liberals to try to block the deal.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said he is considering joining that bloc of senators.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he could not say whether he’d support the emerging agreement.
“I’m going to have to see what the entire deal is,” he said. “I can’t evaluate one piece of it without seeing the whole.”
The deal would exempt estates worth up to $5 million from federal taxes, but it would tax estates larger than that at a 40 percent rate.
The proposal would also raise the capital gains tax from 15 percent to 20 percent and cap deductions for high-income taxpayers.
The deal would also end a reduction in the Social Security tax withheld from paychecks. That withholding would go from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent, meaning that most Americans would receive smaller paychecks in 2013.
But the agreement would extend tuition tax credits and child tax credits. It would also extend unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless who — unless Congress acts –would stop receiving checks this week.
A deal is needed on taxes to avoid the end of a series of Bush-era tax cuts at midnight that would increase the tax rates on nearly every American.
Lieberman said the expiration of those tax breaks would result in an average tax increase of $2,200 for 1.4 million middle-class families in Connecticut.
“That’s a lot of money for a family of four,” Lieberman said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has been negotiating with Vice President Joe Biden as well as Senate Democrats to craft a compromise, was optimistic Monday that the Senate would have a proposal that could be voted upon soon.
“We’re very, very close to an agreement. We’ve reached an agreement on all of the tax issues,” McConnell said. “This has been clearly a good faith negotiation.”
Obama was also hopeful the fiscal cliff could be averted. “There are still issues left to resolve, but we are hopeful Congress can get it done,” the president said.
But some conservatives are balking at raising taxes on anyone and continue to demand deeper cuts.
Even if the deal can pass the Senate, it’s expected to face stronger opposition in the House.
Something that might help is to allow the Bush-era tax breaks to expire at midnight. Then House conservatives would be voting to lower taxes on most Americans, instead of raising them on the wealthy.