Though many of her fellow liberals oppose the tax-cut deal negotiated between President Obama and congressional Republicans, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Tuesday defended her support of the measure.
"The fact is, this bill will be a help to the middle class,'' said Boxer, who, during George W. Bush's presidency, assailed the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as skewed toward the wealthy. She and fellow California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein backed the $858-billion package now before the Senate, even though it would renew the tax rates to all income levels, including the highest earners.
The measure could clear the Senate and go to the House by Tuesday night.
"I voted for this bill because I think our economy continues to be in a fragile state when it comes to job growth,'' Boxer said on the Senate floor.
Although California's diverse congressional delegation usually breaks along party lines, the tax-cut deal has split members of the same party.
Republican Congressman John Campbell of Irvine, for example, has come out against the deal, even though most of his fellow Republicans are expected to support it. "It has a great deal of temporary spending in it, which may provide some short-lived GDP bump,'' he said. "But this growth will peter out when the spending does and leave us with nothing except a new and larger mountain of debt.''
Fellow Republican Rep. David Dreier of San Dimas, on the other hand, has said that he doesn't want to see anyone's income taxes go up Jan. 1 when the tax rates expire.
Democratic Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, from the Central Valley, and Jane Harman of Venice have come out in support of the deal, even though many of their fellow Democrats have been critical of it. Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte) has assailed the deal as "not a compromise'' but "a Republican wish list'' that is "fiscally and morally irresponsible.''
Though opposed to "unpaid-for tax cuts,'' Cardoza said, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax increase that would put our economy in further peril or lead to a 'double-dip' recession.'' Harman said in a statement that she has opposed extending the tax cuts to the very wealthy, but "politics is about the art of the possible.''
On the Senate floor Tuesday, Boxer said that though she opposed renewing the tax cuts for the highest earners and easing the inheritance tax for the wealthy, the measure would extend a number of tax cuts that benefit the middle class and unemployment benefits to more than 400,000 Californians at risk of losing aid at the end of the month.
The bill includes a measure eagerly sought by Boxer and Feinstein to extend a clean-energy program that was part of the 2009 economic stimulus. But it also includes an extension of an ethanol tax credit that Feinstein has attacked as "fiscally indefensible.''
"Do I feel passionate that the people who earn over $1 million don't need a tax cut? You bet I do,'' Boxer said.
"Anyone who thinks you won't have to pay the piper for these tax cuts is living in another world,'' she added, citing the federal budget deficit. "Of course we are. The question is, do we do it now or do we do it when this economy truly turns around?''
"It's far from a perfect bill, but it's what we have,'' Feinstein said after casting her vote Monday.