White House Tries To Sell Tax Deal To Democrats

Congress is finishing up the final days of its lame-duck session. The biggest question: Will the compromise that President Obama and Republican leaders agreed to on tax cuts and an extension of unemployment benefits pass the House and Senate?

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.

DON GONYEA, host:

And Im Don Gonyea.

We'll soon find out if President Obama was right about a tax bill.

President BARACK OBAMA: What Im saying is that Im confident that we're going to be able to get this resolved by the end of the month.

GONYEA: He made that forecast on this program last week.

INSKEEP: This week, lawmakers take up the president's much-debated compromise with Republicans on tax policy for the next couple of years.

And we're going to talk about it this morning with NPR's Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays for analysis. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Let's recall. Many Republicans like this deal. Many Democrats in Congress hate it, specially the extended tax cuts for the rich and the change in the estate tax.

What argument is the administration making here to move Democrats over to its side?

ROBERTS: Well, the administration sent out a lot of spokesmen over the weekend to make the case. Because look, they've had a terrible time from the beginning, with this awful economy and all the things they've done. The stimulus package and all of that, first of all, have been unpopular in many quarters. But secondly, all they've been able to say about it is look, if we hadn't done these things the economy would be even worse.

You know, it's the dog that didn't bark, which is a tough argument to make. So now the president's spokesmen are saying this tax package will actually not just hold the line but make the economy better.

Here's his economic adviser Austan Goolsbee.

Dr. AUSTAN GOOLSBEE (Chief Economist, President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board): I think all private forecasters agree, that when they saw this package amounts, you saw them step forward and say that it would significantly raise the growth rate of the United States in the coming year, if we were to pass it

ROBERTS: He spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press." So that's the big hope, is that -growth will go up, unemployment will come down and it will come down enough to notice before the next election. Because right now, voters are telling pollsters that they're worse off than they were before Obama took office.

So the administration is working very hard to sell this deal. And this week, the president is calling in business leaders for a summit meeting and hoping they'll endorse it, as well.

INSKEEP: And as the administration tried to sell this, last week people looked up at the podium in the White House briefing room and there was a familiar, wagging finger behind that podium.

ROBERTS: Yes, that was a great moment in the briefing room when President Obama left former President Clinton there on his own. And President Clinton's stayed there for about half an hour, very much in his element. It's not likely to make that much difference in the votes in the Congress to have President Clinton endorse the deal. But it does show a major and popular Democrat is for it. But I think it was more theatrics than anything else.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about some theatrics in Congress and around Congress. Liberal activist groups have been sending out blast email trying to rally support to, maybe not block this deal but at least change it. And Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders protested against it on Friday.

ROBERTS: You know, he stood up and did something that you hardly ever see at all anymore. Which is that he actually spoke rather than just threatened to filibuster, and he spoke for eight and a half hours and spoke on the issue of the tax package. He's very much against it.

But I think, you know, you really do have to give him some credit for doing that, not just saying okay Im against it - Im going to filibuster. If more senators actually did stand and filibuster, we'd probably have fewer filibusters.

But, I still think, though, Steve, that they're going to have to swallow hard, vote for it. They're not going to let unemployment benefits run out or taxes go up. So it's just a question of how long they decide to argue about it, as we get close to Christmas.

INSKEEP: And we should mention that Democrats, many of them, keep talking about one little thing perhaps they can change, rather than actually voting against this package. That seems to be their terms.

ROBERTS: But I think that getting changes is going to be very hard to do.

INSKEEP: Okay. Cokie, thanks very much. That's NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.