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updated 9/26/2010 12:47:19 PM ET 2010-09-26T16:47:19

The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress said Sunday they would find a way to extend middle-class tax cuts after the November elections, unable to secure Republican backing before lawmakers break to campaign.

"One way or the other, we're going to get it done. And I believe the pressure is going to build among the American people" said David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's top political aide.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had suggested that a vote could be held this coming week before lawmakers leave town for the elections. But her deputy, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, said Sunday that holding a vote wouldn't matter because the legislation is still languishing in the Senate under Republican objections.

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Both parties are using the delay in a vote on the fate of these George W. Bush-era cuts at a time of record deficits as political ammunition this election season.

Democratic leaders have said they want to freeze tax rates for individuals making up to $200,000 and for families earning up to $250,000. Republicans, as well as some more conservative Democrats, want to extend all of Bush's income tax cuts permanently, even for the wealthiest of Americans.

Democrats think the climate for compromise will improve after the election. They will still need at least one Republican vote in the Senate to pass a bill.

"We are for making sure that the middle-class Americans do not get a tax increase. And we're going to make sure that happens," Hoyer said.

Republicans say they want a chance to debate extending the tax cuts beyond the middle class or else they will block the Democratic proposal.

"If she's not willing to have a fair and open debate, she should not count on our votes," House Republican Leader John Boehner said of Pelosi.

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Axelrod said that kind of strong-arm tactic will hurt Republicans in this fall's election.

"They're going to have to explain to their constituents why they're holding up tax cuts for the middle class," Axelrod said. "And I think it's an untenable position to say, "We're going to allow your taxes to go up on January 1st unless the president agrees to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires."

The Senate's second-ranking Democrat said he hoped the atmosphere will have changed after the election and the impasse ends. "Occasionally one Republican will break ranks and help us," said Sen. Dick Durbin.

Still, Republicans have seized on the impasse in Congress by alleging that Democrats are contributing to consumer and business uncertainty.

"The Democrats have failed to lead this," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy. "They are going to want to leave the House without dealing with it. That uncertainty itself is keeping capital on the sidelines and keeping jobs from being created in America."

Boehner said that if the House leaves without blocking the tax increases, "it will be the most irresponsible thing that I've seen since I have been in Washington, D.C."

Axelrod spoke on ABC television's "This Week." Hoyer, Boehner and McCarthy appeared "Fox News Sunday." Durbin was on CNN's "State of the Union."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Van Hollen: Tax vote before year’s end

  1. Transcript of: Van Hollen: Tax vote before year’s end

    MR. GREGORY: But first to politics and the fight for Congress . Will the House , in this divided campaign season, fall to the GOP ? If so, what will Republicans do in power? This week Republican leaders in the house unveiled their Pledge to America , a campaign manifesto that is the 2010 of the GOP 's Contract with America from 1994 . The highlights: extend the Bush tax cuts , cut spending, and repeal healthcare reform.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): Our Pledge to America is that the Republicans stand ready to get it done and beginning today.

    MR. GREGORY: But the question is are these new ideas or more of the same? Here to debate that question, among others, one of the architects of the Republican pledge, the chairman of the House Republican Congress , Representative -- Conference, rather, Representative Mike Pence of Indiana . He's here in New York . And the man responsible for electing Democrats to the House this fall, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee , Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland . Welcome both of you to MEET THE PRESS .

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Thank you.

    MR. GREGORY: We're here in New York . Congressman Pence , good to have you here with me on, on our breezy set here this morning. We'll be able to get through that. I want to get to the pledge and its contents and this whole debate about whether these are new ideas or not...

    REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Right.

    MR. GREGORY: ...in just a moment. But, Congressman Van Hollen and Congressman Pence , I want to start on the narrow issue of tax cuts and the big tax cut debate that is part of this midterm campaign. We know, Congressman Van Hollen , that the Senate has kicked off the decision -- kicked it back, I should say, till after the elections to take on whether or not the Bush tax cuts should be extended. What will the House do on this important question?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, David , the House will vote before these tax cuts expire at the end of the year. Whether we vote before the election or not is something we'll take a look at. But I want to be very clear as to what the stakes are here because what the Republicans have said is that they're going to hold tax relief for 98 percent of the American people hostage until they can get permanent tax breaks for the top 2 percent, even though that would blow a $700 billion hole in the deficit, something that would be added to the credit cards of our children and grandchildren, and slow down economic growth and jobs going forward.

    MR. GREGORY: But what about the timing? Because you say it's probably not till after the election . I've talked to economists, read their words this week, who say the longer you wait the more uncertainty. Why not put it to a vote before the midterms?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, we are absolutely going to get this done before the end of the year. We may well take it up before the midterms. But, as you've heard from Mitch McConnell , the Senate Republican leader , they are insisting on holding the tax cuts for most of the American people hostage until they get these breaks for the very top. And we don't think that we should be adding $700 billion to our deficit. That's fiscally reckless at a time that we need to be imposing some fiscal discipline. We should not be adding red ink that's going to have to be picked up by others and, and put us more in hock to China and other countries.

    MR. GREGORY: OK. All right, Congressman Pence , you can...

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: That just does not make sense.

    MR. GREGORY: ...you can take on the substance of that. But first, answer this question about the time, maybe, because this is where the news is, should the House take this up before the midterm vote?

    REP. PENCE: David , there is no question that there should be no higher priority for the Congress of the United States today than making sure that no American sees a tax increase in January of 2011 , not one. I, I, I have to tell you, this, for all the world, seems like a moment where Congress is putting politics ahead of prosperity. You know, it -- what, what they're proposing here, even a -- even if they found some way to just extend middle class tax relief, would be an enormous tax increase in January on job creators in this country. You know, higher taxes won't get people hired. Raising taxes on job creators won't create jobs, and the American people know that. But let me say one last thing. I, I...

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: David ...

    REP. PENCE: ...I think it would be unconscionable for this Congress to adjourn without giving the bipartisan majority in the Congress that wants to extend all current tax relief an up or down vote .

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