Washington (CNN) – While President Obama and Democratic leaders have settled on a strategy to extend only the Bush tax cuts for families making $250,000 or less, senior Democratic sources concede they're not sure whether they can make that political push a legislative reality – especially before election day.
The sources admit that the immediate challenge isn't Republicans who also want to extend tax cuts for wealthier Americans, but many of their own moderate Democrats, especially those who are trying to hold onto their seats and do not want to be accused of raising taxes.
Democratic congressional leadership sources say they have not yet decided on how to address that tax cut quandary, but say it will be the most prominent order of business when House and Senate Democrats return to Washington and hold caucus meetings next Tuesday.
The sources say that President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid have all agreed that sticking to then-candidate Obama's pledge to do away with the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is a good way to help re-energize a disillusioned Democratic base. Democratic strategists say demoralized Democratic voters are one of their biggest Election Day concerns.
That's why the President used his news conference to press the argument that "Instead of tax cuts for millionaires, we believe in cutting taxes for middle-class families."
But, in the Senate, three Democrats and one Independent senator have already said they want to extend the Bush tax cuts for those making $250,000 or more, calling it essential not to raise taxes in a bad economy.
A Senate Democratic leadership source says it is still unclear how they will work around that opposition when crafting legislation, which they do intend to try to bring to the Senate floor this month.
And a House Democratic leadership source admits that it is an open question there too whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders will be able to convince moderate Democrats to go along with an extension for only middle class Americans.
Democrats like Rep. Harry Mitchell of Arizona, and Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, for example, have said they want to extend tax cuts for all tax rates until the economy is in better shape.
House Democrats hope the Senate will move first, as they try to shore up support for their plans in a jittery caucus.
One compromise idea Democratic sources say could be considered is changing the threshold, and extending tax cuts for families making under $1 million. But sources caution that it is unclear how viable an option that could be.
Sources in both the Senate and the House also say despite their desire to take this issue up before the election, differences among Democrats may stall the legislation completely until later in the year – after voters go to the polls.