This morning's edition of NBC's Today show featured a segment on the midterm elections which highlighted the Democratic Party's 2010 election "campaign playbook" of "blaming Bush." During the segment, correspondent Savannah Guthrie claimed that "Democrats are banking that President Bush is even more unpopular than they are, even framing the latest battle in Congress as a fight over extending the Bush tax cuts for wealthier Americans."
However, this argument is hardly a frame at all. Congress is debating whether or not to extend tax cuts passed under President Bush that fall on those earning more than $200,000. Hence, they are, indeed, fighting over "extending the Bush tax cuts for wealthier Americans."
It's shocking that we have to explain this, but here goes. Congress is currently debating the extension of tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 which are due to expire on January 1, 2011. The cuts were based on proposals President Bush campaigned on, spearheaded by his administration, and signed by Bush. Additionally, a report by CNN's Dana Bash even called the original 2001 legislation Bush's "centerpiece tax-cut proposal." There is little doubt that these tax cuts are affiliated with the former President.
Referring to these tax cuts as the "Bush tax cuts" is hardly a tool of the Democratic Party, with Republicans using the same phrase to describe them. While defending the cuts a few weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell referred to them as "the Bush tax cuts." John McCain and Mitt Romney used the same words to describe the cuts in a January 2008 debate for the Republican presidential nomination. This isn't some sort of political trick; the tax cuts are commonly referred to by all parties as the "Bush tax cuts."
And yes, the discussion in Congress is generally over the portion of those Bush tax cuts that fall on "wealthier Americans." While it is true that all provisions of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire by the end of the year, the debate in Congress is essentially over the tax cuts for Americans making over $200,000. Reuters reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intends to "push for a House vote before the November 2 election on whether to extend tax cuts for the middle class while letting those for wealthier citizens expire." Likewise, President Obama's proposed FY 2011 budget calls for only allowing the "tax cuts that affect families earning more than $250,000 a year to expire."
Guthrie's suggestion that Democrats are somehow distorting the fact that Congress is debating the extension of certain provisions of the Bush tax cuts is simply bizarre.