WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans are taking their campaign of tax cuts for all income levels on the road, an orchestrated push to bolster the positions of lawmakers in key battleground states before this week’s vote.

House lawmakers fanned out to their districts Friday, blaming President Obama for the nation’s sluggish economic growth and saying his proposal to allow tax breaks to expire for upper-income Americans would hurt business owners who can create jobs.

“Stop the tax hike” events were scheduled at nearly 20 businesses and civic centers, many in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York, where some GOP lawmakers have critical re-election battles as Republicans seek to retain their majority in the House this fall’s elections.

At the same time, Democrats were set to retaliate Saturday by targeting some of those very same districts with door-to-door protests in a counter-campaign to show voters their Republican lawmaker was choosing “millionaires over middle class,” according to the Democratic campaign chairman, Rep. Steve Israel of New York.

The push comes as polls show Americans largely support the White House plan to have richer tax-filers pay more. But polls also show they are concerned about taxing small companies – a point Republicans have tried to amplify as they make their case to voters.

Tax breaks first established under President George W. Bush are set to expire at the end of the year if Congress fails to renew them.

Under a White House proposal approved this week in the Senate, tax rates would rise on those earning more than $200,000 a year for singles, and $250,000 for married couples – the top 2 percent of earners.

Those earning above the threshold would also see their tax rates rise on capital gains and dividends tax rates to 20 percent, rather than the current 15 percent.

The estate tax would also spike to 55 percent, from 35 percent, with the first $1 million of inheritance exempted from tax.

Most small-business owners file individual returns, and under the Obama plan about 1 million of them, less than 3 percent, make enough money to be hit by the tax hike, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Republicans want to keep the current tax rates for another year for all income levels, including the wealthier ones.

The GOP bill under consideration next week would also establish a fast-track procedure for Congress to consider comprehensive tax reform in 2013.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 in Republican leader who coordinated Friday’s campaign activities, said Democrats will have to explain their opposition to the GOP plan after Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill agreed two years ago to extend tax breaks across all income levels.

“They’re going to have to answer why they’re flip-flopping in a bad economy,” McCarthy said. “We need to get the country growing.”

In 2010, Democrats worried that raising taxes on upper-income earners might cost them the mid-term election, and they pushed the issue to the lame-duck session.

They eventually agreed to extend the tax breaks two more years, to this December, in a vote many Democrats now regret.

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., a party leader, said he doubted rank-and-file Democrats were interested in “walking the plank” now for the president’s position.

But Democrats have made a strategic turnaround over the past year, and are now willing to let the tax breaks for the wealthy expire.

In fact, top Democrats now say they are willing to let all the tax cuts expire unless Republicans agree to compromise.

In this campaign year, the bills are more position papers than blueprints for policy, as neither is expected to pass before the election.


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