* House Democrats try to revive bill to extend middle-class
* Tactic needs 26 Republicans to defy party leaders, sign
* Some Republicans voicing support for higher tax rates on
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Nov 30 Democrats in the U.S. House
of Representatives on Friday announced a longshot bid to force
an early vote on tax hikes to break the stalemate in
negotiations over the year-end "fiscal cliff."
The Democratic plan, which Senate Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi said could begin on Tuesday, involves getting a majority
of the Republican-controlled House to sign a petition scheduling
a vote over the objection of the Republican leadership.
Such a procedure, called a "discharge petition," might
generate considerable publicity, fire up Democrats and anger
But to actually work, Democrats, who hold 192 seats in the
Republican-controlled House, would have to attract to their
cause 25 or 26 Republicans. It is unlikely that so many
Republicans would break ranks and deliver a powerful rebuke to
Speaker John Boehner, the gatekeeper of the legislative process.
The central question dividing Washington is whether to
extend lower tax rates for everyone, as Republicans want, or
just for middle-income taxpayers as Democrats want.
The tax cuts expire Dec. 31, just as automatic
across-the-board cuts in federal spending take effect. The
simultaneous jolt of this so-called fiscal cliff has the
potential to bring on a new recession, according to the
Congressional Budget Office.
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill during the
summer on a mostly party-line vote that would extend the reduced
tax rates for everyone but the wealthy.
House Republicans leaders have refused to permit a vote on
the measure, saying it amounts to "class warfare" that would
hurt job creators and the economy.
Pelosi announced on Friday that unless Republicans schedule
a vote on the stalled bill, she will offer a petition on
"We need some Republicans who support middle income tax cuts
to sign on with us," Pelosi said. She said if the petition
prevails, she believes the bill could "get a 100 percent vote"
on the House floor.
"Who is going to vote against a tax cut for the middle
class? No one," a Democratic aide said.
In recent days, a number of House Republicans have said they
would be willing to accept some sort of tax hike on the wealthy
to secure a bipartisan deficit reduction deal.
But such utterances are a far cry from defying their party's
leadership in an effort that rarely succeeds.
A Republican leadership aide predicted Democrats would fall
"The president and Democratic leaders should focus on
finding serious solutions, rather than wasting time on
ridiculous proposals and attempts to punish small business
owners, which won't help the economy or create one single job,"
the aide said.