Democrats distance themselves from Obama tax cut “deal”

House Democratic leaders are not exactly giving a ringing endorsement to the deal President Obama struck with congressional Republicans over tax cuts.

On Tuesday, Democrats put more distance between themselves and Obama than at any other time in his presidency.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took the first steps back, downgrading Obama's compromise plan a mere “proposal” and signaling that there was no guarantee it would pass the House, where Democrats still hold a sizable majority.

“The tax proposal announced by the president clearly presents the differences between Democrats and Republicans,” Pelosi said in a statement, adding that the deal should be measured by whether it creates jobs or increases the deficit.

“Republicans have held the middle class hostage for provisions that benefit only the wealthiest 3 percent, do not create jobs and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit,” she said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters that despite Obama's proclamation Monday night that the two parties had not come up with a bipartisan package.

“There was no consensus or agreement reached by House leaders,” Hoyer said. “There was a discussion at the time but no agreement.”

But Hoyer also acknowledged “there is some merit” to Obama's argument in favor of the tax cut package and said the president “is confronted with a very difficult situation” given Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans unless tax cuts also are extended to wealthier earners.

Hoyer said he doesn't know whether the plan can pass in the House and is himself undecided about whether to back it, although he would prefer only extending the tax cuts to people earning less than $200,000 and couples making up to $250,000, as Obama originally proposed.

Pelosi said she would “continue discussions with the president and our caucus in the days ahead” with the focus on passing tax cuts for lower income workers and extending unemployment benefits that ended Nov. 30.

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