Chuck Schumer abandons a million-dollar idea, grudgingly

Schumer and McCaskill. ()
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Yesterday, Senator Chuck Schumer signaled his support for President Obama's plan to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for Americans who earn $250,000 and above.

But it's not what Schumer really wanted.

For the better part of a year, Schumer pushed the White House to draw the line at an even $1 million, which would, in theory at least, neutralize the Republican talking point about Democrats imposing a harsh new tax on middle-class small-business owners who file as individuals.

But the administration didn't budge, so Schumer, the number three Democrat in the Senate and the party's message czar in the chamber, signaled his support for the president's plan, rather than engage in a high-level, intra-party squabble.

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“Republicans and Democrats alike agree on the need to extend the tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans who make below $250k,” Schumer told The New York Times, “so let’s heed the president’s call and focus on that right away.”

(In a background quote, a "person close to Schumer" told Politico the senator "still believes that the millionaire strategy is the best one. But he believes more that party unity at this time is even more important.")

But Schumer's million-dollar legacy lives on, especially among the senate candidates in close contests, who are fighting to help Schumer retain Democratic control of the Senate.

Politico reported this morning that Bill Nelson in Florida, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Bob Kerrey in Nebraska all said they'd prefer the million-dollar threshold, with Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Shelly Berkeley in Nevada suggesting they might too. Others, like Schumer favorites Jon Tester in Montana and Richard Carmona in Arizona, said they're still looking at the proposal. And some have come up with their own compromise figure; Tim Kaine in Virginia floated $500,000 as the cut-off.

Schumer would seem to be fine with however much distance the candidates feel they need to put between themselves and the president.

"Look each of these people is a very seasoned politician, in the positive sense of the word, and they're going to do what they feel is appropriate," Schumer told me in May. "And, you know, I'd encourage them to do that."