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The Skanner News
Published: 10 December 2010

Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the floor of the Senate at 10:25 am Eastern time, 7:35 am Pacific, determined to filibuster the tax cut bill. Four hours later he is still speaking. The bill is overwhelmingly opposed by the Congressional Black Caucus. oregon Rep. Peter De Fazio led the opposition in the house.  House Democrats voted in a closed-door meeting Thursday not to allow the package to reach the floor for a vote without changes. The Skanner News Video: Live feed

  President Barack Obama said he expects disgruntled Democrats to make changes to the sweeping tax-cut deal he reached with Republican leaders, a pact he predicted will win congressional approval.

Democrats have objected to the deal on grounds it is too generous to the rich, especially its provisions cutting estate taxes for the wealthiest Americans. House Democrats voted in a closed-door meeting Thursday not to allow the package to reach the floor for a vote without changes.

Asked about those objections, Obama said there will be talks between House and Senate leaders about the package's final details.

"Keep in mind, we didn't actually write a bill," he said of his agreement with Republican leaders. "We put forward a framework. I'm confident that the framework is going to look like the one that we put forward."

The deal was hammered out as Republicans prepare to take a majority in the House of Representatives starting in January. Obama's Democrats lost control of the House and saw their Senate majority weakened in November elections.

Throughout his campaign for the White House and the first two years of his presidency, Obama had vowed he would not allow the tax reductions to continue for the wealthy, defined as households earning more than $250,000 a year, when the cuts expire at the end of this month.

However, the president has said he had no choice except to agree to an extension of the tax cuts, which date back to Republican President George W. Bush's administration. Tax cuts for middle-class and lower-earning Americans are also set to expire at the end of the year, and Republicans are refusing to back the tax cuts if the wealthy are excluded.

The uprising among fellow Democrats so soon after the party suffered a major defeat in last month's elections only compounds Obama's increasing political fragility with the approach of the 2012 presidential campaign.

In an interview with National Public Radio released Friday, Obama said that despite a rebellion by many Democrats against his tax deal, it will pass because "nobody - Democrat or Republican - wants to see people's paychecks smaller on Jan. 1 because Congress didn't act."

The pact would extend cuts in income tax rates for all earners that would otherwise expire next month, renew long-term jobless benefits and trim payroll taxes for one year.

The measure appears headed for Senate approval after negotiators added a few relatively modest sweeteners to promote ethanol and other forms of alternative energy. It was unclear whether House Democrats would be able to demand changes that go much further.

Tax provisions designed to increase production of hybrid automobiles, biodiesel fuel, energy-efficient homes, coal and energy-efficient household appliances would be extended through the end of 2011.

The measure also includes tax breaks for commuters who use mass transit. The program saves commuters about $1,000 a year.

There is no precise timetable for passage in the Senate, but a procedural vote was set for Monday afternoon that appears likely to demonstrate overwhelming support for the legislation. Supporters say it would help accelerate a sluggish recovery from recession.

"This bill is not perfect, but it provides the economic boost middle-class families and small businesses in Nevada and across America need," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat. "Middle-class families and small businesses will see their taxes go down."

At the insistence of Republicans, the measure includes a more generous estate tax provision. That infuriated Democrats already unhappy with Obama for agreeing to extend tax cuts at incomes of more than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

In all, the package would cost about $855 billion, according to a preliminary congressional estimate.

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