Appearing on Fox News Sunday this morning, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) said that despite some indications to the contrary, House Democrats do not intend to obstruct the passage of President Obama’s tax package.
Van Hollen maintained that Democrats’ primary objection was over the estate tax, and said that while Democrats intend to “have that debate” — perhaps by holding a vote, or series of votes, on just the estate tax provision — but they would not block the deal. “We’re not going to hold this thing up at the end of the day,” he said.
That came as a surprise to Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), appearing opposite Van Hollen on the program. Ryan said Democratic rhetoric over the estate tax — including threatening to block the deal — fit well with the “hostage-taking” metaphor used against Republicans. Indeed, Van Hollen’s comments today signaled a change of tone. He had suggested last week that House Democrats were digging in for a much more aggressive fight over the deal. “We’ve got till the end of December,” he told The Huffington Post.
The estate tax, Van Hollen insisted, had not been a central element of the six-party talks led by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, which is why he believed the White House was “out-negotiated” by Senate Republicans in arriving at the current deal, and why he believes that Democrats might be able to win a better deal.
For all of 2010, the estate tax rate has been at zero, and is set to return to the old rate of 55 percent next year. The current package brokered by the president would set the rate at 35 percent, which Democrats think is too low. “[It’s] very reasonable for us to ask the wealthiest estates to pay their fair share,” Van Hollen said.
Ryan, who told NRO last week that the deal was “the best we were going to get,” said arguing over the estate tax was a bad idea. “We’re not interested in changing this deal. We’re interested in passing this through,” he said.