Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has only been in office for a matter of weeks, but he has already helped lead the Republican Party’s charge to protect tax cuts for the very wealthy. Days after being sworn in, Kirk delivered the Republican response to the weekly White House radio address, in which Vice President Joe Biden pushed for an extension of middle-class tax cuts. Kirk defended an extension of all the cuts: “Americans already pay some of the highest taxes in the world. By raising taxes in order to fuel higher spending, we threaten to restart the recession, pushing millions of Americans out of work,” he said.
Today, Kirk’s office sent out an e-mail to constituents soliciting their opinion on the Obama-McConnell compromise, which the Senate will vote on this afternoon. Kirk writes that he’s not sure how he will vote; “I will tell you where I stand when I hear from you,” he writes. His e-mail explains the issue like this:
In 2001 and 2003, Congress passed tax relief measures helping taxpayers across the board. Rates were lowered for low-income, middle class and upper-income Americans to help the economy recover from the downturn caused by the “Dot-com” and September 11th blows to our national income. Unfortunately, this relief is scheduled to expire New Year’s eve, triggering one of the biggest tax hikes in U.S. history.If allowed to occur, tax rates would go up for nearly all Americans who pay taxes. Low-income Americans would see their taxes go up from 10% of income to 15%. The top rate would go up from 36 to over 39%. The marriage tax penalty (charging married couples more than two singles filing independently) would reappear, along with the death tax jumping from 0% to 55%. The capital gains rate would increase from 15% to 20% coupled with dividend tax rates more than doubling for some taxpayers — hurting seniors and Americans nearing retirement most.
As the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet notes, Kirk frames the issue dishonestly, suggesting that the only two choices are whether all the tax cuts go up, or none of them do. Democrats have repeatedly proposed, and put up for a vote in which Kirk participated, a measure that would keep the tax cuts for earners under $250,000. Kirk also fails to mention the payroll tax cut, and other features of the compromise.
By suggesting to constituents that his only choice is to vote for the compromise package (because all tax brackets will see an increase otherwise), Kirk appears to be gaming a certain result. The question is why Kirk pretends an e-mail campaign will decide his vote on an issue that he’s already stated his opinion on, only hours before it is to take place. As Sweet writes: “[S]ending out this e-mail to solicit input — when Kirk does not even provide the varied elements of the deal, including a cut in payroll taxes for a year — an item that will impact everyone who gets a paycheck — makes this e-mail gambit by Kirk even lamer.”