Rep. Mark Kirk's Latest Whopper Underscores GOP Dishonesty On Taxes

September 16, 2010 12:14 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

The race for President Obama's former Senate seat in Illinois is unique in that the winner will be seated immediately after the election.  Accordingly, GOP candidate Mark Kirk has made the specter of a "lame duck" session of Congress — in which jilted lawmakers could take controversial votes without fear of an electoral blowback — a central theme of his campaign, emphasizing that he would give Republicans an additional vote against progressive legislation. 

In a fundraising email today, Kirk reminded supporters about the possibility of a lame duck session with a poll asking, "Which of the following potential lame duck issues do you think would hurt the economy the most?" The poll included four options, but one of them was particularly noteworthy: "A 900 billion tax increase by allowing current federal tax relief to expire."

Kirk is talking about the Bush tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year, and his premise underscores the GOP's scornfully dishonest framing of this debate. 

To repeat, the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire; Republicans passed them into law with an end date in order to hide their true, massive cost.  Contrary to the GOP talking points, Democrats aren't scheming to raise taxes.  If Congress simply does nothing, taxes will go up on their own, thanks to Republican policies.    

President Obama's answer to all this is to pass another round of tax relief — the Obama tax cuts, if you will — for all Americans making under $250,000 per year.  Polls show consistent support for Obama's plan, but congressional Republicans are pledging to block anything that doesn't include more deficit-busting tax breaks for the rich, effectively holding the middle class hostage.  Yesterday, Obama explained the trouble with the GOP's position: 

But once again, the leaders across the aisle are saying no. They want to hold these middle-class tax cuts hostage until they get an additional tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

We simply can't afford that.  It would mean borrowing $700 billion in order to fund these tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans -- $700 billion to give a tax cut worth an average of $100,000 to millionaires and billionaires.  And it's a tax cut economists say would do little to add momentum to our economy.

At any rate, Kirk's fear-mongering about the lame duck Congress is just more misdirection from a candidate who can't seem to get his story straight.  It will require congressional action to stop the GOP-designed tax increases at the end of the year.  And if Republicans fulfill their promise to block the Obama tax plan before the elections, then there won't be any tax relief without the lame duck session Kirk is so afraid of.