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Woolsey, Thompson question Obama tax plan

President Barack Obama's attempt to win Republican support for extending unemployment benefits received a skeptical reaction Tuesday from the North Coast's Democratic representatives in Washington.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, said she was leaning against supporting the president's proposal, which would extend unemployment benefits for 13 months while prolonging Bush-era tax cuts for two years.

It's vital to keep unemployment benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, Woolsey said. But she opposes doing so in a bill that would also extend tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000.

Such tax cuts would benefit the upper 3 percent of Americans while worsening the deficit and doing nothing to new create jobs, she said.

“What I know so far leads me to be non-supportive of this kind of compromise,” Woolsey said by phone Tuesday. “We should not be doing this.”

The president's proposal represents a trade-off between Congress's resurgent Republicans who are emphatic about keeping the tax cuts for all income levels as a spur to the economy, and many Democrats who consider long unemployment benefits to be essential.

Some Democratic Congress members think Obama caved in, not only agreeing to the income tax cuts for the wealthiest, but also to raising the estate tax exemption and to cutting Social Security taxes.

“Those who have the most get the most,” Woolsey said. She wants Congress to vote specifically on unemployment benefits so the public can see how members stand.

“I think we should give it one more try and see who is holding out,” she said.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who is part of a group of fiscally conservitive House Democrats, said he didn't have the particulars on a proposal that few on Capitol Hill have actually seen.

“There's no there there yet,” he said referring to the lack of details behind the framework.

While he was waiting to learn more, he already was concerned by reports of the estimated price tag, he said by phone Tuesday.

“It's going to cost a trillion dollars,” he said. “That means we have to borrow a trillion dollars from China in order to do what is in this bill. That worries me a great deal.”

Zachary Coile, spokeswoman for Democrat Barbara Boxer, said California's junior senator, liked some parts of the proposal and disliked others.

“She will judge the final package based on how it will affect job creation and economic growth and whether it will benefit California's middle class, working families and small businesses,” he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's press office did not return a call requesting comment Tuesday.

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