WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress seems increasingly reluctant to let taxes go up, even on wealthier Americans.
Worried about the fragile economy and their own upcoming elections, a growing number of Democrats are joining the rock-solid Republican opposition to President Barack Obama's plans to let some of the Bush administration's tax cuts expire.
Democratic leaders in Congress still back Obama, but the willingness to raise taxes is waning among the rank and file as the stagnant economy threatens the party's majority in the House and Senate.
"In my view this is no time to do anything that could be jarring to a fragile recovery," said Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a first-term Democrat.
The pushback on tax increases comes as lawmakers and the Obama administration consider ways to boost the economy and increase the speed of an anemic recovery. Along with tax cuts for middle- and low-income families, Obama said this week that he would soon be proposing new measures to grow the economy and encourage hiring, including additional business tax cuts.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that there wouldn't be another big stimulus bill, but he declined to say what options Obama's economic team was considering, including whether a temporary payroll tax holiday for businesses was on the table. The White House has said it was open to that idea in the past.
The most sweeping tax cuts in a generation are due to expire in January, and that's setting up a showdown when lawmakers return from their summer vacations this month. By waiting to act on the tax cuts until just before congressional elections in November, Democratic leaders have raised the stakes, politically and for taxpayers.
If Congress fails to act — a possibility given the gridlock that has gripped the Senate — workers at every income level would face significant tax increases next year.