President Obama has been vocal in his opposition to rolling back the Bush-era tax cuts for families making more than $250,000. But as his party's position in the polls continues to worsen and the economy remains stagnant, a number of high-profile Democrats, including Senators Jim Webb and Evan Bayh, are breaking with the president and voicing their support for extending the cuts. Is this a political year stunt, or are congressional Democrats really ready to force Obama's hand?
- Showdown Coming? Democrats in Congress see the moment as a chance to distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular administration, says Reuters's Kim Dixon. It's particularly important for moderate Democrats who must appeal to "constituencies that sometimes look more like Republicans." Obama's plan isn't drawing much support from the rank-and-file. "Most public displays of support [for ending the tax cuts] have come from the Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives," writes Dixon.
- Curious Fight The Washington Post's Greg Sargent believes Democratic opposition to Obama's plan is misguided. "Amid a sea of bad polling news, here is an issue where the public is clearly on Dems' side," writes Sargent. Punting, Sargent believes, would just be bad politics. "This, of all things, is not an issue where Dems should conclude in advance -- as they often do -- that once Republicans go on the attack, it's game over and Dems can't possibly win the argument."
- Breaking Ranks Those pushing for an extension of the benefits received an unexpected endorsement this week from Peter Orszag, Obama's former White House budget director. "In the face of the dueling deficits, the best approach is a compromise," Orszag wrote Wednesday in his new New York Times column. "Extend the tax cuts for two years and then end them altogether." At the very least, an extension would save the president some of his political capital. "The beauty of extending the tax cuts for only two years," Orszag noted, "is that canceling them doesn’t require an affirmative vote."
- Impact Overstated? Time's Michael Crowley argues the political impact of breaking with Obama on taxes will be negligible for vulnerable Democrats. While the majority of Americans were in favor of the original cuts in 2001, Crowley notes that was an era of "very different budgetary and economic circumstances." Democrats trying to use the issue for political gain in 2010 could find it has "limited impact" with voters in November.