While some Democratic partisans want Obama to play tough on taxes and use his leverage to force Republicans to accept higher rates on the wealthy, Republicans warn that such hardball would poison the well even before Obama takes the oath of office and imperil prospects for second-term Obama initiatives including immigration reform.
Another idea is to raise revenue from the wealthy but not through higher income tax rates. Instead, policymakers could cap the amount of itemized deductions that the wealthy might be able to claim, an idea that's in Obama's budget and was a suggestion of Mitt Romney in the campaign.
"There is more than one way to bell the cat. So why are people so fixed on the 39.6 (percent rate)? It's because of the progressivity of the code," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., on CNBC on Thursday. "You can accomplish that same progressivity with lower rates if you broaden the (tax) base in a way that's progressive."
Other items on the agenda for the lame duck session include a multi-year farm bill, legislation to reform the Postal Service, and a renewal of Medicare payment rates for doctors.
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