CBS Frets Over Obama's Liberal Base Being Upset By Possible Tax Deal

On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith discussed a potential deal between the Obama administration and House Republicans on maintaining current tax rates, declaring: "The Democrats are – their noses are out of joint about this." Political analyst John Dickerson agreed: "Very much so, because they want the President to stand up and fight."

Dickerson went on to detail liberal efforts to put pressure on Obama: "There are ads that are going to be running this weekend saying, 'Don't Cave, Mr. President.' They want Barack Obama to make a stand and say Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy...and Democrats want tax cuts for the middle-class." He added: "But the President is making a deal and it doesn't look like it's going the way the liberals want and they are very angry."

Smith suggested a compromise on taxes could be "a vision of the future" as Republicans take over Congress. Dickerson again focused on how upset the left would be by such compromise: "It is a vision of the future, although the future is so bleak because, of course, if this goes through it has big deficit implications....And so, what liberals are very worried about is they see the President buckling, in their view, and they think this is just the beginning of a long string of buckles."

Prior to Smith's discussion with Dickerson, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante touted new poll numbers on the tax debate: "Our CBS News poll shows what a majority of the public would like to see. 53% of those we asked side with the President and say that tax cuts should continue for households making less than $250,000 a year. Only 26% believe that they should be extended to those making more."

The poll question itself only referred to "tax cuts" being "continued" but avoided the phrase "tax increase." It also offered three responses, making the Democratic position seem to be the middle-of-the-road position: "Which comes closest to your view about the tax cuts passed in 2001? 1. The tax cuts should be continued for everyone, 2. The tax cuts should only continue for households earning less than $250,000 a year, or 3. The tax cuts should expire for everyone."

Here is a full transcript of the December 3 segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

ERICA HILL: Looking for jobs. All eyes on the latest unemployment numbers released this morning, which could show a holiday boost for the economy. We'll have the numbers and a new CBS News poll that has some positive news for President Obama.
                                        
7:01AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: First to politics and the latest on President Obama and the lame duck Congress. A CBS News poll out this morning shows the President's approval rating at 48%. That's up three points from just two weeks ago. At the White House, officials say they're still confident congressional Democrats and Republicans will put aside their differences and agree to extend tax cuts and unemployment insurance. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has the latest on that. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Harry. The President and Democrats are playing a game of political chicken with Republicans over the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of this year. But our CBS News poll shows what a majority of the public would like to see. 53% of those we asked side with the President and say that tax cuts should continue for households making less than $250,000 a year. Only 26% believe that they should be extended to those making more.

NANCY PELOSI: The motion is adopted.        

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Tax Cut Tug-of-War; Still No Compromise Over Extension]

PLANTE: And yesterday on a mostly party-line vote, House Democrats passed President Obama's plan, extending the tax cuts for everyone, except those high-income earners, a plan that has no chance of passing in the Senate. That infuriated soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner.

JOHN BOEHNER: Trying to catch my breath so I don't refer to this – this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, alright? But, this is nonsense! Alright? The election was one month ago and to roll this vote out today, it really is just – it's what you think I was going to say anyway.

PLANTE: Well obviously, they're not there yet, but the likely compromise a trade-off by Democrats extending the tax cuts for everybody for a couple of years in exchange for something else, like an extension of unemployment insurance. That will make the President's liberal base very unhappy. And something else that's going to make people unhappy today is the vote of the President's deficit commission, which proposes to cut spending drastically. It would take 14 of the 18 members to send that plan to Congress and, at this hour, it looks very, very unlikely. Harry.

SMITH: Bill Plante at the White House this morning. Thank you very much. Also in Washington, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson. John, good morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: What can you tell us then about this deal? And some of it is sort of back-room stuff, around – doing an end-run around congressional Democrats, between the President and the leadership of the Republicans to say, 'Here's our quid pro quo, we will extend these tax – we'll go along with extending the tax cuts if you extend unemployment insurance?'

DICKERSON: There's a lot of back-room dealing going on and that's the shape of it, that the Republicans will get what they want, an extension for all rates, including those for what the Democrats say the wealthy, those over $250,000. And in return, the White House will get an extension of unemployment benefits and also a host of other tax cuts, the White House likes to call them the 'Obama tax cuts,' for lower-income and middle-income families that will extend for a year to help them through this difficult economic time.

SMITH: Educational tax credits in there, too, as well. The Democrats are – their noses are out of joint about this.

DICKERSON: Very much so, because they want the President to stand up and fight. There are ads that are going to be running this weekend saying, 'Don't Cave, Mr. President.' They want Barack Obama to make a stand and say Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy, those who make over $250,000, and Democrats want tax cuts for the middle-class. That's what was behind that symbolic House vote. But the President is making a deal and it doesn't look like it's going the way the liberals want and they are very angry.

SMITH: This is very interesting. Because if, in fact, this does goes through, people get a little of what they want, this may be sort of a vision of the future.

DICKERSON: It is a vision of the future, although the future is so bleak because, of course, if this goes through it has big deficit implications. We're about to have and in the middle of this big question about how much to cut, how much taxes might increase. And so, what liberals are very worried about is they see the President buckling, in their view, and they think this is just the beginning of a long string of buckles.

SMITH: And here's the deficit commission that has been meeting for hours and days and weeks and months and they will not get a consensus. It looks like, so there will not be anything forwarded to Congress and all of this work for it almost seems like for naught.

DICKERSON: Well, it does because they weren't able to get the votes. The question will be what will the President do with this. He set up this commission, he says he's committed to deficit reduction. And there are lots and lots of plans out here in Washington. It seems everybody's got one. And so, the President will have to say, 'I'm going to use this' or we expect him to say, 'I'm going to use this as a starting point for next year's conversations.' But the reason this didn't pass is that all of these choices are hard, tough, and ugly, and nobody wants to get behind them, although some members of the committee are, in fact, going to vote for it.
    
SMITH: Because it's really about cutting entitlements and/or raising taxes and it's hard to get people to agree on any of that stuff. John Dickerson, thank you very much. Do appreciate it.

DICKERSON: Thanks, Harry.    
 

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC