Damage control: Axelrod now denies caving on tax cuts (kinda)

The White House is in damage control mode in the wake of the Huffington Post article that reports Obama is caving on the Bush tax cuts, which Chris posted below.

Greg Sargent has the statements from Axelrod and Dan Pfeiffer:

Axelrod emails:

There is not one bit of news here. I simply re-stated what POTUS and Robert have been saying. Our two strong principles are that we need to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, but we can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy.

And White House comm director Dan Pfeiffer adds:

The story is overwritten. Nothing has changed from what the President said last week. We believe we need to extend the middle class tax cuts, we cannot afford to borrow 700 billion to pay for extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and we are open to compromise and are looking forward to talking to the Congressional leadership next week to discuss how to move forward. Full Stop, period, end of sentence.

What should really concern the White House is that absolutely no one was surprised to hear that the President was capitulating on tax cuts. We actually more or less expected it. That’s what he does.

Despite these new statements, Greg notes:

The question remains, though, whether the White House will hold fast to Obama’s demand last week that the extension of the tax cuts for the middle class remain permanent while extending the high end ones temporarily. The main sticking point is that Republicans won’t allow the two categories to be extended for different durations, because that would force them to push for just an extension of the cuts for the rich later.

Via email, PCCC’s Adam Green sent his statement, which captures how the White House operates — and what the appropriate response should be:

The White House saying ‘we support’ a policy is meaningless — they ‘supported’ the public option and then let it die without a fight. The White House and congressional leaders need to say we are scheduling one vote, one vote only, and that vote is on renewing the middle class tax cuts — and if Republicans want to oppose tax cuts for 98% of Americans, we dare them to and will pummel them politically if they do. That’s how you fight and put Republicans on defense.

Let’s revisit what Sam Stein and Howard Fineman at Huff Post wrote this morning:

Although the president “took the position he felt was the right position” — favoring a continuation of the cuts only for families earning up to $250,000 — Axelrod portrayed this “optimal” stance as unrealistic in the lame-duck Congress that begins next week.

For one, time is not on the administration’s side. All of the tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts. The Republicans in effect “built in tax increases,” Axelrod said. And separating out different categories of tax cuts now — extending some without extending others — is politically unrealistic and procedurally difficult, he added.

“We don’t want that tax increase to go forward for the middle class,” he said, which means the administration will have to accept them all for some unspecified period of time. “But plainly, what we can’t do is permanently extend these high income taxes.”

In other words, the White House won’t risk being blamed for raising taxes on the middle class even though, arguably, it is the GOP’s refusal to separate the categories that has put Obama in this bind. The only condition, at least initially, seems to be that the tax cuts for the wealthy not be extended “permanently.”

It sure sounds like the President we know.

We can wish that the President would ever be so bold about something he purports to believe. As John has said repeatedly, Obama doesn’t do bold.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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