Pelosi and Hoyer split on tax vote before November elections

By Russell Berman -The Hill

A split has opened between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) over whether to hold a vote before the midterm elections on extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class.

In closed-door leadership meetings this week, Pelosi has pushed for the House to act on the middle-income tax cuts before lawmakers bolt Washington for the campaign trail, while Hoyer wants the House to wait for the Senate to act first, according to Democratic aides.

The disagreement between the two party leaders reflects a broader divide in the Democratic Caucus. Centrist and vulnerable Democrats want to push a vote on the tax cuts until after the election, and many want a temporary extension on rates for the wealthy in addition to a permanent extension of the current rates for the middle class. Liberal Democrats want an immediate vote on extending the middle-class cuts, arguing that the move would give incumbents an act to tout on the campaign trail and would force Republicans into a political corner.

Democrats face the real possibility of losing the House in November, which could shake up the party’s leadership and shift roles for Hoyer and Pelosi, who have worked together closely during the four years the Democrats have led the lower chamber since 2006. Hoyer has long been a voice for centrist Democrats, while Pelosi’s base of support is with the party’s liberal wing.

There is speculation that Hoyer could become minority leader if Republicans win back the House. It is unclear whether Pelosi would stay on as a leader if Democrats lose their majority.

Both Pelosi and Hoyer have voiced confidence in recent weeks that Democrats will retain their majority this fall.

The two leaders agree on the substance of the tax debate. Both oppose extending the tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year but want to make the middle-class cuts permanent.

Their disagreement centers on the political merits of holding a House vote before the election if the Senate does not act first, aides said. Senate leaders have not decided whether to hold a vote before lawmakers leave town, and House Democrats have long been wary of taking votes that may be shelved in the upper chamber.

House aides emphasized that the situation remains fluid. Any vote would most likely occur next week, which will likely be the last week the House is in session before the election.

A spokesman for the Speaker, Nadeam Elshami, said no decisions had been made and reiterated Pelosi’s pledge to extend the tax cuts for the middle class.

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