Biden Visit Does Little to Ease Tax Deal Ire

Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:18pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned Tuesday that he may not have the votes to pass President Barack Obama’s deal with the GOP to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts for two years.

When asked whether he would have enough support to pass the legislation, the Nevada Democrat said, “No. I think we’re going to have to do some more work” in persuading Members to approve the agreement.

However, Reid hinted that the political realities of letting the deal collapse — which would result in the tax cuts lapsing Jan. 1 — could shift the landscape. “We have to realize where we are and see where votes are when it’s all over,” he said.

Reid’s comments came after a closed-door meeting with Vice President Joseph Biden, which did virtually nothing to ease the concerns of rank-and-file Democrats in the Senate.

For instance, Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer — one of the leaders of Democratic opposition to a full extension of the tax cuts — refused to discuss the issue at all.

“I’m not talking,” the normally loquacious New York lawmaker repeatedly told reporters.

Reid acknowledged that the presentation by Biden and other White House officials did not sooth the feelings of his caucus, and he said Democrats would huddle again Wednesday. “Some in my caucus have concerns, as I suspect, Republicans have concerns,” Reid said.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg was more blunt. “No, I don’t think it’s a fair deal. A ransom was paid, and it was a high price,” the New Jersey Democrat said, pointing to Republicans’ agreement to a 13-month extension of unemployment insurance, which is not paid for, in exchange for Obama bowing to GOP demands for a full extension of the tax cuts.

Likewise, a clearly disheartened Sen. Dianne Feinstein emerged from the meeting still undecided as to whether she will end up backing the agreement. “I need time. I need time to look at it,” the California Democrat said.

Emily Pierce contributed to this report