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Bill Clinton backs extending Bush tax cuts, for now

June 05, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • Former President Clinton's view that the Bush-era tax cuts should be renewed temporarily breaks with President Obama's view. But the two presidents agree that the tax breaks for upper income earners should not become permanent.
Former President Clinton's view that the Bush-era tax cuts should… (Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty…)

Less than 24 hours after a very public show of Obama-Clinton unity, former President Clinton appeared to break from the White House strategy for dealing with the soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts.

Speaking on CNBC on Tuesday, Clinton suggested that the tax cuts should be extended temporarily as the country struggles under the weak economy, which he described as a “recession.”

“They will probably have to put everything off until early next year. That's probably the best thing to do right now,” Clinton said.

Clinton’s remark is not in line with the position held by the White House or Capitol Hill Democrats, who are pushing to let the tax cuts for top earners expire at the end of the year as scheduled and hoping to use the deadline as leverage against Republican opposition. Asked last week about a possible temporary extension, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the notion “"fairly stupid.”

"That's not about instilling confidence,” she said. “We're talking about kicking that old can down the road.”

However, on the big question of whether to extend the tax cuts for upper income earners, Clinton and his party’s leaders appear to be on the same page. Even a temporary extension of all the cuts would be a fight, he noted, because “Republicans don't want to do that unless [President Obama] agrees to extend the tax cuts permanently, including for upper income people. And I don't think the president should do that.

“The real issue is not whether they should be extended for another few months. The real issue is whether the price the Republican House will put on that extension is the permanent extension of the tax cuts, which I think is an error,” he said.

Republicans jumped quickly on Clinton’s comment on Tuesday, eager to play up a difference between the presidents. Clinton’s remark comes less than a week after he stepped on Obama’s message about his GOP opponent, Republican Mitt Romney. Clinton referenced Romney’s “sterling” business career, undermining Obama’s claim that Romney was corporate raider who killed jobs.

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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