"Senate GOP: Extend tax cuts or else," reads the teaser headline for an Associated Press story at SFGate.com, the website for the San Francisco Chronicle.
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"Republicans send letter to Harry Red threatening to block virtually all legislation until expiring tax cuts for wealthy are extended," an accompanying caption insisted.
In the corresponding story, AP writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis lamented that "Senate Republicans threatened Wednesday to block virtually all legislation until expiring tax cuts are extended and a bill is passed to fund the federal government, vastly complicating Democratic attempts to leave their own stamp on the final days of the post-election Congress."
Of course, nowhere in her story did Hirschfeld Davis note that a recent poll shows most Americans think extending the Bush tax cuts are the top priority for the lame duck Congress. According to the Gallup organization:
Americans are most likely to say it is important for Congress to pass legislation to keep the estate tax from increasing significantly next year and to extend the income tax cuts passed under George W. Bush before the end of the year. Just under half say it is important for Congress to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.
What's more, according to Gallup:
Americans seem somewhat less enthusiastic about other policies the Obama administration hopes to get passed by the end of the year, including repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military, and passing the "DREAM" Act that would provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S. who were brought to the country as children. Fewer than one in three say it is very important for Congress to do each by the end of the year. Four in 10 believe it is very important for Congress to ratify the START treaty that would lead to reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons.
Of course, the DREAM Act, ratifying the START treaty, and repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are precisely the Democratic priorities that Hirschfeld Davis griped were being threatened by the GOP's stand.
What's more, while the polling data is nearing four months old, an August survey of voters found that:
By a wide 64-25 percent margin, most voters think it would be inappropriate for "current lawmakers to push through legislation on major issues that likely wouldn't pass once the new House and Senate members take office." Most Republicans (77 percent) and independents (68 percent) think it would be wrong, as do a plurality of Democrats (49 percent).
The tax cuts expire on New Year's Day 2011 and the new Congress doesn't convene until two a few days later, hence the urgency to stave off a tax increase now rather than retroactively later.