Pelosi Firm On Tax Cuts For Incomes Of $250,000 Or Less : It's All Politics House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remained firm that tax cuts should go to incomes of $250,000 or less. This was despite indications that some House Democrats wanted to extend Bush-era tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthy.
NPR logo Pelosi Firm On Tax Cuts For Incomes Of $250,000 Or Less

Pelosi Firm On Tax Cuts For Incomes Of $250,000 Or Less

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, file, July 2010. Louie Traub/Associated Press hide caption

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Louie Traub/Associated Press

Maybe it's just her opening position for negotiations. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded pretty firm Thursday in her opposition to extending Bush-era tax cuts to households with incomes of more than $250,000.

In recent weeks, some House Democrats have softened their resistance to the notion of continuing the tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest families. With the economic recovery still sluggish, they've argued that the present time isn't perhaps the best one to raise anyone's taxes.

But Pelosi made it very clear she isn't among them. She sounded very much like President Barack Obama. He pledged during the campaign to keep the tax cuts for households making $250,000 or less and to let them expire for the wealthier.

He hasn't backed away from that vow. And Pelosi was sticking with it, too.

And she told reporters attending her weekly news conference that they shouldn't mistake her willingness to listen for a willingness to change her mind.

Pelosi's argument is that essentially everyone gets a tax cut, even those with incomes above the magic $250,000.

What the wealthy won't get is tax relief extended on the part of their incomes above $250,000.

As Pelosi explains it, the wealthy and superwealthy have received 80 percent of the tax cuts were enacted during the Bush Administration.

What's more, the cuts have contributed to the nation's large deficits which have been financed with money borrowed from China and other overseas lenders.

Here's part of her exchange with reporters:

REPORTER:  What do you expect of tax cuts?  What do you say to the 31 Democrats that have asked for a vote on a one-year extension of all the tax cuts?  Because they feel -- these are some of your most vulnerable members facing reelection.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, what I say is what I've said all along. The tax cuts at the high end have not produced any jobs.  They've only increased the deficit.

We're still paying the price that they have contributed to the deficit all along. I respect that they have a different view. Many of these members are members who are budget hawks.

So I think we'll be able to find some common ground on the subject. I certainly support extending the middle-income tax cuts.

I don't -- and let me just say about these high-end tax cuts:  80 percent of the tax cuts go to people making over $1 million a year -- people making over $1 million a year.  And I just don't think that our nation should go into debt, perhaps to China, in order to underwrite a tax cut for people 80 percent of whom are making $1 million a year. That's what I would say to them.

REPORTER:  Madame Speaker, you say "common ground" -- "common ground" there.  This past weekend, Mr. Van Hollen said the possibility of extending the Bush tax cuts for the highest earners by one, possibly two years, that was something that Democrats would have to listen to.

Mr. Hoyer seemed to open up that window yesterday to a degree, saying that he definitely would listen to it.

Is that a nonstarter for you?  Would you say to us here that you would absolutely in no way support that, or could you be open to possibly extending it a year or two years?

SPEAKER PELOSI:  Well, let me be very clear.  Mr. Hoyer did not open up any -- by saying he would listen.  We always listen.  And I completely identify with what he said.  We always listen to membersand ideas that they may have.

And there's a wide range of them, you might be interested to know, whether it's raising the threshold, extending the time, shortening the time, any number of in-depth things.  We have great intellectual resources and diversity in our caucus and we always listen.

But I see no justification for giving a tax -- going into debt to foreign countries to underwrite and subsidize tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America.  And in this particular instance, 80 percent of the tax cut goes to people making over $1 million a year. Do you want -- not speaking to you -- I don't know if anybody here wants their children, their grandchildren deeper in debt with that fiscal deficit so that we can give a tax cut to the high end.

I don't even know why this is such a big discussion.  The middle class should have a tax cut; 97 percent of the people -- let me enlarge that -- 100 percent of the people get a tax cut; 97 (percent) of them -- 97 percent of them make 250 (,000 dollars) and below.  And every -- but everybody, up until whatever they make, gets the tax cut up to the first $250,000 that they, as joint filers, make. So it's a tax cut for all Americans.  It just doesn't keep on going and going and going the wealthier you are. Yes, sir.

REPORTER:  But it's fair to say you're not opening that one -- it'sfair to say that you're not open to that one-to-two-year extensioncompromise?

SPEAKER PELOSI:  Not for the wealthy, no.

REPORTER:  Madame Speaker, you've made your position on -- that's clear?

SPEAKER PELOSI:  That's my position.  Again, we listen to our members.  
But I think the president gave us exactly what we needed: clarity.  And the public is with the president:  57 (percent) -- was it 50? -- middle 50s, depending what poll you see, 54, 55, 56 percent of Americans support middle-income tax cuts with the -- and something like 30 -- middle 30s (percent) do not want the tax cuts for the wealthy.

The strength of it is that it has that clarity, it has that delineation and that the money will be used to reduce the deficit.  There are some people who are not in that count who want to have no tax cuts for anyone or they want to have no tax cuts for the wealthy and spend the money on something else.

And what we're saying is, let's just really be clear. This is fairness.  Everybody gets a tax cut up to 250(,000 dollars).  People making $1 million a year get a tax cut up to 250(,000 dollars).  So everybody is getting a tax cut; 97 percent of the people are in that category, up to 250(,000 dollars)...

And so why would we go deeper into debt when money that is not creating jobs, hasn't created jobs, to give the tax cut to the high end?