WASHINGTON — A top adviser to President Obama said Sunday that an $858 billion package of tax cuts and jobless benefits will pass Congress without major changes, despite a revolt by some House Democrats.
David Axelrod, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," said the administration would prevail on the deal struck with Republican lawmakers "because at the end of the day, no one wants to see taxes go up on 150 million Americans on Jan. 1."
A showdown in the lame-duck Congress is coming this week.
Axelrod said on ABC's "This Week" that some provisions of the compromise struck with Republican lawmakers were "odious." He cited upper-income tax cuts and estate-tax relief. But that's the nature of compromise, he said, calling the overall package a "win for the American people."
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Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who will be the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee next year, said on "Fox News Sunday" that estate-tax relief remained a "choking point." The bill, for two years, would let individuals pass on to their heirs up to $5 million tax-free; higher amounts would be taxed at a top rate of 35 percent He and others favor less generous terms and suggested the estate tax provision should be voted on separately.
But Van Hollen indicated the estate tax was not a deal-breaker. He said he was confident that taxes would not rise in January for middle-income Americans or top earners.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who will chair the House Budget Committee in the next Congress, responded to Van Hollen by saying Republicans had an agreement with the president and some Senate Democrats and they didn't want to change it.
If House Democrats scuttle a deal, the first thing Republicans will do next year will be to prevent "job-killing tax increases" and make the changes retroactive, Ryan said.
Economist Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," also predicted the deal would be approved.
Goolsbee said, however, that Obama does not think that tax cuts for high-income Americans stimulate the economy, calling them part of a compromise needed to win provisions beneficial to the middle class. He said when high-income tax cuts lapse in two years, they will not be able to "stand on their own merits."
He sidestepped a question on when the unemployment rate would fall meaningfully. He said the rate was influenced by the number of jobs created and the number of people entering the labor force. "Having private-sector job growth for 11 months and adding 1.2 million jobs is a good start," Goolsbee said, "but we've got to do much more."