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Boehner Back on Message over Bush Tax Cuts

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio walks back to his office after the House passed health care reform in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Sunday, March 21, 2010. Photos: The Road to Reform Photos: Health Care Summit Special Report: Health Care Reform AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Trying to get back on the GOP tax message, House minority leader John Boehner told reporters this morning that he's going to fight to extend all the Bush tax cuts this year before they expire December 31, 2010.

On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Boehner told CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer that he would vote for a package that extended middle class tax cuts and let the upper-income tax cuts expire if that was his only option. His comments caused the GOP to scramble, with House Republican leaders Eric Cantor and Mike Pence coming out strongly saying that Republicans will only stand for a full extension of the cuts.

When asked today if Mr. Boehner stood by his comments on Sunday, Boehner avoided the question.

"I said Sunday about five times that I want to extend all of the current tax rates, and that's what the American people want," Boehner said.

Even when a reporter followed up asking Boehner if it came down to it, would he vote for a package that just extended the middle class cuts, Boehner was right back on message saying that Speaker Nancy Pelosi should support his plan to cut spending and extend all tax cuts.

"I want to extend all of the current tax rates," Boehner said again. "I want the speaker to allow a fair and open debate on our two-point plan, because if we extend the current tax rates and we're able to cut spending, we'll reduce some of the uncertainty coming out of Washington, D.C., and employers will then have the ability to continue to create jobs in America."

President Obama and House Democratic leaders only want to extend those tax cuts for individuals making $200,000 less and families making $250,000 or less. It is still unclear, however, if House Democrats will vote on a tax package before the November elections. Numerous members of their own party, moderate and politically vulnerable Democrats, don't want to vote on a tax increase right before an election -- if ever. Some of those members, led by Reps. James Matheson (D-Utah), Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), Glenn Nye (D-Ill.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), plan to release a letter later today asking Pelosi to consider extending all tax cuts.

Democratic leadership meanwhile, have been showing members polls that find the majority of Americans support allowing tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.

When asked about tax cuts today, House majority leader Steny Hoyer would only say, "We haven't decided what we're going to do. We'll see and we're discussing it."

Hoyer did say that he prefers only extending middle class tax cuts, but said, "I'm always prepared to discuss alternatives so we can move forward."

Some of the discussions are within the House Democratic caucus, but there are also ongoing conversations with the Senate, where passing the extensions will be a heavy lift. House Democratic leaders want some indication of what the Senate can do and if they can go first, so that House Democrats don't vote for a tax increase that won't become a reality.

Jill Jackson is a CBS News senior political producer. You can read more of her posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow her on Twitter.
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