Are House Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans the Grinch that is stealing Christmas sales?
Sen. Sherrod Brown said he's being told by retailers that uncertainty over next year's tax bite is causing middle-class families to hold back on their holiday spending.
"This uncertainty would just disintegrate if the House of Representatives would simply pass the tax breaks," Brown said Wednesday.
If allowed to expire, the temporary tax break for middle class earners would mean a tax bite up to $2,200 next year, Brown said.
With the holiday season upon us and the economy teetering on the "fiscal cliff" being debated in Washington, Brown said "now is not the time to threaten working class families with a tax increase."
Brown also said the January "fiscal cliff" won't be an immediate economic disaster.
"It's more a slope than a cliff," he said.
The Obama administration and Republicans are split on how to handle the tax hikes and spending cuts that are due to take effect next year if a deal isn't reached.
Obama wants the Bush-era tax rates to remain at their current level for households earning under $250,000 a year, but wants taxes to increase on those earning more.
Obama's offer is part of an overall deficit reduction plan to increase tax revenue and reduce spending by about $1.5 trillion each over 10 years.
Congressional Republicans, led by Boehner, don't want to raise taxes on the wealthy, arguing that higher rates would stifle the economy.
Republicans have advocated unspecified changes in the tax code to eliminate tax breaks and loopholes.
Brown said continuing the middle class tax break has to be done before discussion on cleaning up the tax code.
"That's going to come, but that can't be done by the first of the year," Brown said.
His priority is to do the tax breaks first, he said, "and then the negotiations get serious on what we do with corporate taxes and tax rates generally."
Republicans have suggested cuts in entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
"There is absolutely no outcry from voters except from some Wall Street analysts to start cutting Medicare and Social Security and especially raising the retirement age," Brown said.
"Seniors don't call Social Security and Medicare an entitlement -- they call it an investment they paid in almost most of them all of their work lives," he said.
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