WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, on Wednesday signed onto a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin, urging that the House of Representatives extend the Bush 2003 tax rates on dividends and long-term capital gains.
Meanwhile, reports out of Washington on Thursday indicated that no House or Senate vote on extending the tax cuts would be taken before the Nov. 2 elections.
"With the state of our fragile economic recovery, now is not the time to raise taxes that would impede job creation and take money out of the pockets of our nation's seniors," Bishop said in a news release. "Seniors rely on dividend income to supplement their fixed Social Security payments. We owe it to our seniors to look out for them in this time of economic instability."
The campaign of Republican Mike Keown, who is challenging Bishop for the Second Congressional District seat he has held since 1993, charged that Bishop is now attempting to ride former President George Bush's coattails.
"Congressman Bishop has finally decided that the last two years of liberal policies have been a complete and utter disaster. He can't run on his record, he has to run on the record of George Bush," Keown Campaign Manager Andrew O'Shea said. "But more than that, the corruption coming from his office over the past few years has been undeniable and reprehensible. Making sure your family is paid from scholarships and earmarks makes him unfit to even serve."
Just last week Bishop joined 30 of his colleagues in the Blue Dog Coalition in signing onto a letter to the House leadership requesting that substantial estate tax relief be included in any upcoming tax legislation. The group urged Pelosi and Hoyer to consider legislation to extend all of the 2001 income tax cuts.
"Blue Dogs" label themselves as a coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats.
An excerpt from the group's letter to leadership urging extension of the dividend and capital gains cuts reads:
"A number of tax cuts enacted in the past decade are due to expire at the end of this year. Our fiscal policy should be one that maximizes economic growth and private sector job creation. That is why we strongly believe that Congress should extend the current tax rates for dividend and long-term capital gains taxes."
What is unclear is if the cuts will be for all, or just for those below a certain income level.
Pelosi, while supporting tax cuts in general, has sided with President Barack Obama's pledge to keep the tax cuts for households making $250,000 or less and to let them expire for those above that threshold.
House Democrats, many frustrated over passing legislation only to see it stall in the Senate, say they are waiting for senators to act first.
On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that a growing number of Senate Democrats say they probably won't consider Obama's call to preserve middle class tax cuts until after the elections. A so-called "lameduck" session of Congress is scheduled to open Nov. 15.
"The reality is we are not going to pass what needs to be passed to change this either in the Senate or in the House before the election," the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said Thursday.
Republicans say it is another case in which Democrats want to raise taxes. Democrats counter that Republicans are holding middle class tax cuts hostage while they fight to extend tax cuts for the wealthy, an argument that would be stronger if Democrats actually scheduled a vote on the proposals. AP reported that Senate Democrats met behind closed door for more than an hour Thursday and emerged with no plan on how to proceed.