* Pelosi won't commit, or rule out pre-election vote
* Senate to leave before voting on Bush-era cuts
* Taxes rise for all if Congress deadlocks
(Adds byline, analyst, economist comments, details)
By Kim Dixon and Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Sept 24 U.S. House of
Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday the House
would vote this year on extending middle-class tax breaks, but
she would not commit to vote before the Nov. 2 congressional
"The American middle class will have a tax cut," Pelosi
said at her weekly news conference. "It will be done in this
While not ruling out a pre-election vote, the comments
strongly suggest a delay on the congressional vote until after
the November midterm elections, where Democrats face steep
losses in the House and possibly loss of one house of Congress.
Democrats have been divided on whether a vote on middle
class tax cuts would help their chances in November or expose
them to more Republican criticism that allowing the tax rates
to rise on the wealthiest Americans could hurt some small
"We will retain the right to proceed as we choose," Pelosi
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Thursday
downplayed the likelihood of a pre-election vote, saying voters
knew where Democrats stand on the issue.
Lower tax rates for all American taxpayers enacted under
former President George W. Bush expire at the end of year.
Under the plan advocated by President Barack Obama and most
Democrats, lower tax rates would be extended only for the first
$200,000 of an individual's income, or $250,000 for families.
Republicans want the lower rates extended for incomes above
Both houses of Congress could leave Washington soon to
campaign for the elections. The House was to meet Wednesday
through Friday next week and could recess after that.
The Senate on Thursday put off its own vote on extending
the tax cuts until after the elections. Democrats faced a
potential Republican filibuster of their plan and some were
uneasy that voting on extending only the middle-class tax cuts
could hurt their re-election chances.
"Even those who don't make $250,000 want to be able to,"
said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who backs holding off on
The tax cut debate has flared among lawmakers during a
fierce congressional election season focused on the sluggish
economy and a projected $1.3 trillion deficit.
A post-election vote raises the odds of even more gridlock.
Republicans emboldened by election gains will likely make it
more difficult for Democrats to back Obama's plan, and push
harder for an extension of all the tax cuts.
"If anything, the rhetoric will become more heated, since
the stakes for 2012 include the White House," said Paul Sracic,
chair of the political science department at Youngstown State
University in Ohio.
Likely gains by more conservative Tea Party candidates --
many of whom have advocated lower taxes and less government
spending -- could box Democrats in even more.
Some worry the stalemate could lead to expiration of all
the lower tax rates, an outcome neither party says they want.
Republicans might want to wait until their new lawmakers are
seated, in January.
Many economists say the fledgling economic recovery makes
it a bad time for such broad tax increases.
"I think the consensus is building that one way or the
other, large scale tax increases for everyone is highly
undesirable," Citi economist Steven Wieting said.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)