Anthony Weiner on the Tax Compromise

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Anthony Weiner weighs in on the compromise between Congressional Republicans and President Obama on the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York has been one of the most outspoken members of Congress against Obama's tax compromise. On Meet the Press on Sunday, Weiner said he wants the president to succeed, but the question is, "can we really afford to give millionaires a $160,000 tax cut?"

With the Senate expected to pass the tax cut compromise this week before it moves to the House, Weiner says one of the things that has people most "offended" in his chamber is the estate tax, not only because of how it's written, but that the President compromised more on this point than anyone ever expected.

Even my Republican colleagues were saying, boy, they were surprised that so much was given away. And I say given away because [the estate tax] is enormously expensive. It's a tiny number of people but it's an enormous strain on the budget.

Weiner asked the IRS how many people in his district would be affected by the estate tax, and he was given a number in the single digits of constituents who would pay the estate tax each year.

What this tax debate comes down to, he said, is a basic debate about how much of an obligation wealthy taxpayers should have toward the rest of the country.

Part of what this tax debate is also about, is about when do we start restoring a sense of fairness and balance to the economy where we try to deal with the enormous concentration of wealth among very few when the top one percent that makes the same amount as the next 25 percent. There is that imperative also that we have to address when we're looking at tax rates.

One listener called in to the show, enraged that a Democrat was "attacking our President" instead of attacking the Republicans. Her Irish mother always said, "the best defense is a strong offense." Weiner responded, he does want to support the President and wants him to be successful, but:

...when you have Mitch McConnell and the Republicans saying effectively, we're going to hold our breath and not do anything until you give us what we want, the question is then what is the proper tactical response to that, and what is the proper substantive response and I think the President to some degree underplayed our hand here.

In response to other Democrats, like Congressman Jim Himes, who thinks fighting this plan is a big risk, Weiner says it's still worth the fight to make the plan better and it's his job as an elected representative to do so.

I think sometimes fighting for what you believe in is a value in and of itself, even if you don't get every single thing you want, at least you define the issues. In this case we kind of went down with a whimper rather than a bang.

When asked if he'll vote against the tax deal in its current form, Weiner didn't exactly say no, but said he'll have a very difficult time voting yes.