* Vote in Senate could come this month
* Republican House certain to balk
* Opening moves in runup to election, fiscal cliff
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, July 11 Congressional Democrats and
President Barack Obama on Wednesday plotted their legislative
priorities for the months leading up to November's elections,
showcasing an extension of middle-class tax cuts as well as with
measures to keep government agencies functioning beyond Sept.
Later this month, the Democratic-led Senate is expected to
stage a vote on continuing tax cuts for families earning up to
$250,000 - an election-year initiative that the
Republican-controlled House of Representatives will not go along
Instead, Republicans want to renew all Bush-era tax cuts
that are set to expire on Dec. 31, including those for families
earning above $250,000, despite Obama's opposition. The House is
expected to vote this month on full renewal.
Both of these tax initiatives are aimed at more at
energizing Democratic and Republican voters than actually
enacting legislation before November's election as few think the
House and Senate are capable of agreeing on much of anything.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said that the Democrats'
tax bill this month likely will also include the extension of
some additional middle-class tax breaks, such as a child tax
credit and another for college tuition.
Senator Richard Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the
Senate, told reporters that few, "if any, Democratic senators,"
will back the extension of all Bush-era tax cuts. Some have said
they favor a extending the cut beyond the $250,000 earning level
- which they say no longer defines the middle class in some
expensive areas of the country - to those earning up to $1
But Obama spokesman Jay Carney predicted "overwhelming
Democratic support" for letting income tax breaks expire for
those making more than $250,000.
Durbin said that during a nearly hour-long meeting with
Obama at the White House Wednesday, Democrats also discussed
strategy for passing a stop-gap spending bill to keep the
government operating beyond Sept. 30, when the current fiscal
Durbin said a stand-alone bill to fund military programs in
the new fiscal year also could be passed.
Other measures to be brought onto the Senate floor, Durbin
said, are a long-stalled bill to improve cybersecurity and
another to make campaign funding more transparent by large
political contributors known as "super PACs."
Durbin dashed hopes that an immigration reform bill that he
has championed might be debated this summer. Known as the "DREAM
Act," the Democratic legislation would allow certain children of
illegal immigrants to stay in the United States to pursue
college education and jobs and put them on a path to
In June, Obama provided a temporary reprieve for some of
these immigrants since Republicans have blocked legislation that
would be more durable.
"Lamar Smith has made clear he won't take up any immigration
bills so in the limited time we have (this year), let's focus on
what needs to be done," Durbin said, referring to the Republican
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is the
gatekeeper of immigration legislation in the House of
If Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on what to do
about the expiring tax cuts enacted by former President George
W. Bush in 2001 and 2003, which hit all income levels, lawmakers
will have try to hash out a deal following the Nov. 6
presidential and congressional elections.