Washington (CNN) - As top Democrats and Republicans begin negotiations over extending the Bush-era tax cuts, a national poll indicates that the public remains divided on whether the wealthiest Americans should continue to receive those cuts.
Four in ten questioned in a USA Today/Gallup survey released Wednesday say that the cuts should be extended for all Americans, with 44 percent saying they support extending the tax breaks but setting limits on how much of wealthy Americans' income is eligible for the lower rates, and 13 percent saying the cuts should be allowed to expire at the end of the year.
An Associated Press-CNBC poll released Tuesday indicates that half questioned wanted tax cuts to be extended only for families making under $250,000 a year, with 34 percent saying they should be extended for all Americans, and 14 percent calling for the cuts to sunset for everyone at the end of the year.
Forty-nine percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted in the middle of November said the tax cuts should be extended for families making less than $250,000 a year, with another 15 percent that said the cuts should not be extended for anyone. That left 35 percent who favor an extension of the tax cuts for all Americans regardless of how much money they make.
The tax cuts were passed into law in first years of the presidency of George W. Bush. They are set to expire at the end of this year, unless a new bill is passed by Congress. The issue became a raging battle between Democrats and Republicans in the nation's capitol and on the campaign trail across the country the past three months. The White House and many, but not all, congressional Democrats want to keep such tax cuts in place for those in the middle class but roll them back for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans say the tax cuts should be kept in place for everyone.
At a White House meeting Tuesday between President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders from both parties committed to start negotiations to seek compromise.
Both Obama and congressional Republicans emphasized the talks on the tax cut issue as a major issue in the meeting.
"That process is beginning right away, and we expect to get some answers back in the next couple of days," Obama said. However, he cautioned that both parties still have deep disagreements, even as they attempt to find "sensible common ground" on the tax provisions.
Boehner said talks involving the treasury secretary, White House budget officials and members of Congress from both parties will examine the tax issue. The congressional negotiators will be Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland for the Democrats, with Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan for the Republicans.
However, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky indicated that there is little leeway in the GOP stance, saying that all Senate
Republicans and some Democrats want all the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 to be extended.
The USA Today/Gallup survey indicates a partisan divide on the issue, with 59 of Republicans saying tax cuts for all should be extended. Only 41 percent of independent voters and 18 percent of Democrats feel the same way.
The USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted November 19-21, with 1,037 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.
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