WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Thursday privately considered punting President Barack Obama's call to preserve middle class tax cuts until after the election, with several predicting that postponing the debate was increasingly likely.
"The climate is not conducive to getting much done before the election," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. "If I were a betting man, I would say we deal with them" later in the fall.
The most sweeping tax cuts in a generation, enacted in 2001 and 2003, are due to expire in January. Republicans want to extend them all, while Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress want to extend them for individuals making less then $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000.
If Congress takes no action, taxpayers at every income level face significant tax increases next year.
Some Democrats in Congress are wary of supporting Obama's plan, fearing they would be accused of supporting a tax increase ahead of an election in which they will be fighting to maintain majorities in both the House and Senate.
Democrats were expected to make a final decision on the debate's timing during a lunchtime caucus Thursday. If they decide to the delay action, the tax cuts would be addressed in a lame duck session, after the Nov. 2 election.
Some Democrats are eager to start their election season recess next week, leaving little time to address the tax cuts, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. Baucus, however, said he is ready to act on the tax cuts.
House Democrats said they were waiting for the Senate to act. Some said they have been frustrated by passing bills that languish in the Senate.
"The Senate could always surprise us, but not on the tax extenders, that will be done in the lame duck," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.