House Dems poised to vote on middle-class-first tax plan?

HOUSE DEMS POISED TO VOTE ON MIDDLE-CLASS-FIRST TAX PLAN?…. It’s hard to guess exactly how the tax-policy debate will unfold in the coming weeks, since wary Democrats are still arguing and negotiating with themselves. Everything from sticking to the original plan to wholesale capitulation appears to be on the table.

This afternoon, however, Brian Beutler reports that House Dems are moving towards a vote on what I call the middle-class-first tax policy, first pushed by then-candidate Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

House Democrats are likely to hold a vote later this week on a tax plan that would allow the Bush tax cuts for high-income earners to expire at the end of the year, according to multiple aides.

Nothing’s final, and the timing could change, as it often does. But Dem leaders will attempt to settle on a date at a private meeting on the Hill tonight.

Keep in mind, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty about Dems’ tax cut strategy. Through last week’s congressional recess, neither House nor Senate Dem leaders had the votes to pass a plan like this, and leaders in both chambers were signaling pretty clearly that the coming vote will be both a symbolic political statement about GOP priorities, and a starting point for a negotiated compromise with Republicans and conservative members of their own party.

It’s worth noting exactly what this plan entails. It’s exactly the policy thought to be the Democratic plan all along: families making up to $250,000 would see a permanent reduction in their income tax rates. Everyone above that threshold would still get a tax cut, but on income above a quarter-million, they’d return to Clinton-era tax rates. It’s also the approach polls suggest is pretty popular with the electorate.

I’m still shaking my head, by the way, on the fact that House Dems chose not to hold this vote before the midterm election.

And just for context, also note that Senate Dems are increasingly fond of a similar plan, but it would draw the line at $1 million, instead of $250,000, at a cost to the government of an additional $400 billion over the next decade.

Of course, if the House does vote on the middle-class-first policy, it’s not clear if there will be enough votes to pass it, and if the leadership manages to cobble together 218 votes, Senate support for this approach is tepid, at best. At a minimum, though, it would lay down a marker, and set a benchmark for additional cross-party, cross-chamber talks.