Pelosi: Tax Cut Debate 'Grossly Unfair'

Democrats are pushing ahead with a vote on their plan for the Bush tax cuts, despite GOP resistance, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor today to call the Republican stance on tax cuts "grossly unfair."

"This is so grossly unfair," Pelosi said. "It is so grossly unfair. I can't imagine my colleagues on the Republican side don't want to give a tax cut to the middle class."

What's so unfair about the GOP's bargaining?

Pelosi attacked Republicans for wanting to extend the tax cuts on earnings above $250,000 without offsetting the extension with any spending cuts to pay for them. As Pelosi has pointed out, allowing the $250k+ Bush tax cuts to expire would generate $700 billion in government revenue.

Republicans have demanded offsets to neutralize an extension of unemployment insurance, as Democrats are pressing for an unemployment extension in the lame-duck session. During the last big fight over unemployment benefits, Sen. Jim Bunning filibustered on this very point, demanding that the cost of the benefits be offset.

"They want a...bonus and a tax break on top of it, but no we can't give middle-income tax breaks if you do that, and if you do unemployment insurance it has to be paid for," Pelosi said.

Republicans, of course, see this differently. They don't see the extension of the tax cuts on earnings over $250,000 as a tax cut, but rather the preservation of current tax rates.

"We want to stop the tax hikes, and the American people don't need to pay for the privilege of keeping" their current tax rates, a senior GOP aide said.

Although White House and congressional negotiators are working to hammer out a deal on the Bush tax cuts, House Democrats are pressing ahead with a vote to extend only the present tax rates for earnings under $250,000, which is what they want to do.

Republicans have attacked this as a partisan move. By moving ahead, Democrats will essentially force Republicans to vote against extending tax cuts for the middle class, putting GOP lawmakers on record as opposing the Democratic plan. But it's almost certain that this vote will not determine the ultimate Bush-tax-cut solution.