Top Democrat: We won't budge on Bush-era tax cuts

Sen. Patty Murray Elaine Thompson

(CBS News) With Congress preparing to tackle a series of controversial tax and budget issues this fall, Democrat Sen. Patty Murray is warning Republicans that Democrats are not planning to stand down in the ongoing battle over extending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Murray, speaking to the Brookings Institute Monday, warned Republicans that she and others in her party are prepared to let tax cuts for all Americans expire if Republicans don't work with them on a deal to end Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

"We don't want to increase revenue for the sake of increasing revenue. Of course not. But as a nation, we need to pay for the services and programs the American people want. We need to rein in the deficit and debt--and we need to do that in a responsible way," said Murray, the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"Unlike last year, the consequences of gridlock could start to be felt immediately. Millions of jobs could be lost through the automatic cuts, programs families depend on would be slashed irresponsibly across the board, and middle class tax cuts would expire," she continued. "And once again, if Republicans won't work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal."

If the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of the year, taxes will go up for all Americans. President Obama favors letting those cuts expire for Americans earning more than $250,000 while extending them for everyone else; most Republicans want to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone.

In addition to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, January 1, 2013 marks the day when $1.2 trillion worth of budget cuts spread across domestic and defense programs begin to go into effect unless Congress can reach a deal to offset them. Those automatic "sequester" cuts, spread over 10 years, are the result of the failure of the congressional "super committee" to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit as mandated by the deal last August to raise the debt ceiling. Also set to expire January 1 are some unemployment benefits and a deferment of payment cuts to Medicare physicians.

In a Monday afternoon statement, the Senate Republican Communications Center blasted Democrats for admitting a "willingness" to go over the so-called "fiscal cliff."

According to a May report released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, unemployment would rise and "the first half of 2013 would probably be judged to be a recession" if Congress does not act to stop the sequester and keep taxes from increasing.

That isn't stopping Democrats from playing hardball to reach a deal.

"I feel very strongly that we simply cannot allow middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans to bear this burden alone," Murray said on Monday. "It's just not fair."