BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown found common ground Monday, as each declared he was supporting an Obama administration income tax compromise that included elements each had pointedly opposed.
Kerry said he was supporting the deal despite its extension of Bush administration tax cuts. He voted against the cuts in 2001,2003 and 2005, and railed against them when squared off against their patron — Republican George W. Bush — during the 2004 presidential campaign.
“This isn’t the choice we should have to make, but it is the choice we do have to make, and governing is always about choices,” Kerry said, echoing his campaign trail rhetoric. He lauded the element of the deal extending emergency unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks, until the end of 2011, and said it would have been otherwise impossible because Republicans have refused to pass any other bill without the tax-cut extension.
Brown offered his endorsement to the compromise even though it will expand the deficit by more than $800 million during the next two years. He joined the Senate last winter after winning a special election rooted in his pledge to cut spending and reduce the deficit.
WBZ’s Jon Keller talks with Sen. Brown.
In a video news release on Dec. 1, Brown also touted his own plan to finance extended unemployment benefits with unspent federal funds identified by the Office of Management and Budget. He said he was otherwise opposed to extended benefits because they would add to the deficit.
“If we don’t do anything, we’re going to have the biggest tax increase for quite a few generations now,” Brown told reporters Monday before he rang a Salvation Army bell in downtown Boston.
“I’m going to continue to work to find ways to cut the deficit and work on spending in the next session,” the senator added. “We have a debt commission that made some very positive recommendations.”
Brown also pledged to file amendments to pay for elements of the compromise without adding to the deficit, though negotiators have been loathe to tinker with any element of the agreement.
The Bush tax cuts are slated to expire Dec. 31, as are existing emergency unemployment benefits. House members moved last week to block the compromise, but the Senate gave initial approval in a pivotal test vote on Monday.
Obama has been pressuring his fellow Democrats to support the compromise, and last Friday he tapped former President Bill Clinton to lobby for the bill during an unusual joint White House news conference.
Brown, meanwhile, was pressured by another Democrat, Gov. Deval Patrick, earlier this month when he refused to support an extension of unemployment benefits that ultimately was folded into the tax compromise.
Patrick called the extension a “question of national character.”
Brown is up for re-election in 2012 and has been busy straddling between the coalition of Republicans, Independents and tea party activists who helped elect him and the liberal Democrats in Massachusetts who staged a resurgence during the midterm elections last month.
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