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Axelrod Doesn’t Expect Changes to Tax Cut Bill

Updated: 1:51 p.m.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that he doesn’t foresee that changes will be made to President Barack Obama’s tax cut deal to appease House Democrats.

“I think that the framework that was agreed to is the one that will be voted on tomorrow, and I think that’s the one we’re going to be working with,” Axelrod said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Senate has lined up a procedural vote on the measure for Monday afternoon.

Axelrod said the president is calling individual Members this weekend about the package and is having broad conversations with Democratic leadership. Axelrod said it would be “tragic” if the bill failed and tax increases take effect Jan. 1.

“We can’t afford that,” he said. “The result of it would be devastating to people across this country.”

The House Democratic Caucus is unhappy with the deal the president negotiated with Republicans, particularly with its estate tax provision, and has voted not to bring the bill up unless changes are made. But Axelrod held out hope that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would allow a vote. “She understands the consequences of inaction,” Axelrod said.

Two liberal House Democrats, Reps. Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Jim McDermott (Wash.), predicted later on CNN that the tax cut deal will ultimately pass, but without their votes.

“I suspect that they will ultimately find a way,” McDermott said, predicting that enough sweeteners would be added to get the votes.

McDermott complained that the bill gives more in estate tax relief for 39,000 families, $68 billion, than the $56 billion it spends on a one-year extension of unemployment benefits.

Cummings said the bill would set the stage for cutting programs for the middle class. “The Republicans are going to come back and they’re going to say, we have an Obama deficit, and we need to cut programs. … The very people you just talked about are going to be hurt.”

Rep. Anthony Weiner expressed disappointment that the president did not put up more of a fight over the tax cut extensions.

“Today, with a majority in the House, the majority in the Senate and we control the presidency, and we’re acting like we have a weak hand,” the New York Democrat said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We have the right side of the issues and the numbers, and I don’t know why we don’t fight.”

But Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin later said on CNN that everyone would be hurt if the bill is not passed, even though many Congressional Democrats strongly oppose extending the tax cuts for all income levels and the estate tax provisions.

“At the end of the day, the economy would slump and people would suffer,” the Illinois Democrat said. “It’s a hard calculation to make, but that’s why we elect a president.”

Durbin also said that this is the only opportunity Democrats would have to provide another stimulus for the economy.

“We have to accept the reality [that] in three weeks the world is going to change dramatically in favor of the Republicans,” he said.

Liberal Rep. Jerry Nadler said, however, on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Democrats should go back to the public and fight against what he called the Republican blackmail of opposition unless the wealthy get a tax break. The New York Democrat was pessimistic that the tax cuts would be allowed to expire after two years, as the proposal schedules.

“If we succumb to that blackmail now, why would I expect that the president and the Congress would not succumb again to that blackmail?” Nadler asked.