House Democrats Commit to Renewing Tax Breaks

House Democratic leaders say they're committed to approving an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for middle-income wage earners.

The question is whether they will vote on the tax cuts before lawmakers leave Washington to campaign for the midterm elections and how long the cuts will run for.

"We're committed to a policy (of cutting the taxes)," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). "The phasing-out of the middle-class tax cut will not end."

Hoyer was not willing to say Congress would approve the tax cuts before the midterm elections. However, he did say that Democrats would not allow them to expire at the end of the year.

Still, there are some questions about whether the House should defer to the Senate to move first. A hallmark of the 111th Congress is how much legislation the House has approved, only to see it die or significantly altered in the Senate. The thought is that the House should wait to see what if anything the Senate is capable of tackling.

"In order to get this done, we've got to get it out of the Senate," conceded Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). "It may start in the Senate. But we don't know yet."

However, a senior House Democratic aide suggested that the House may move whether the Senate is ready to go or not.

"I think you'll see a lot of impatience with the Senate if they don't do something," said the aide

A coalition of moderate and conservative Democrats is crafting a letter to send to House Democratic leaders. Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT), Melissa Bean (D-IL) and Gary Peters (D-MI) indicate the tax cuts should be extended. But they're willing to negotiate on how long the cuts would last.

"We believe in times of economic recovery it makes good sense to maintain things as they are in the short term, to provide families and businesses the certainty required to plan and make sound budget decisions. Providing this certainty will give small businesses, the backbone of our economic recovery, confidence and stability," writes the trio in the letter.

Peters says he'd prefer Congress vote before the break for the midterm elections.

"I think it's better to have a vote sooner rather than later," said Peters. "You need lead-time so folks know the tax policy."

Peters would not announce how many House Democrats had signed the letter.