By Nathan Brown
Bill Owens hasn't heard any feedback from his colleagues in Congress about his proposal for a compromise on extending the Bush-era tax cuts, but he says people in the district seem to like it.
"I haven't heard from anybody from Washington, but I've got to tell you, I'm getting a lot of positive feedback as I go around the district," Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.
Action on extending the tax cuts, which expire Jan. 1, has been delayed by disagreement between Republicans, who want them extended for all incomes, and Democrats, who want them extended for most people but not higher incomes. The Nov. 2 election gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives, starting in January.
"People talk to me about that and are very supportive, not only of the particular compromise but of the idea of compromise ... trying to engage our friends on the other side of the aisle," said Owens, who has been traveling around New York's expansive 23rd Congressional District.
Owens and three Democratic colleagues wrote a letter to the leadership in both parties in late September, suggesting a five-year extension of the current tax rates for individuals making less than $200,000 yearly and families making less than $250,000 yearly; a five-year extension of the current tax rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends; and a one-year extension of them for individuals and joint filers making less than $500,000 yearly.
Congress adjourned shortly thereafter without taking any action; Owens voted in favor of adjournment, saying at the time he knew compromise wouldn't happen. Owens and the three sent another letter to the leadership on Monday, renewing the call for compromise.
The current Congress will go back into session on Monday, and on Jan. 3 a new Congress - with a Republican majority in the House and a slimmed Democratic majority in the Senate - will be sworn in.
Owens said he would push for a vote on the tax cuts, even if no one will consider his particular proposal, "so people have some sense of where we're going." He said he didn't think he would know until a caucus Monday night whether there would be a vote during the lame-duck session.
Owens considers himself a moderate and said after his win over Republican Matt Doheny last week that he thought he would be able to work with the new Republican majority. But what are the chances of bipartisan cooperation now?
"I think, initially, it's going to be unlikely we're going to get cooperation," Owens said. "In the longer term, if they (Republicans) have difficulty getting legislation out of their own caucus, they may become more interested in participating with some on the Democratic side of the aisle."
The only other major bills Owens said he thinks will be taken up before January are the defense authorization bill, which already passed the House but still has to pass the Senate, and a continuing budget resolution, which needs to be passed to fund the federal government since there is no budget.
"I would have preferred to see an actual budget adopted, but clearly that's not going to happen, so I think we're going to be stuck with a continuing resolution," Owens said.