Washington (CNN) - Democrats and Republicans both say they want Bush-era tax cuts extended this year for most, if not all Americans. Then why has it been so hard to make it happen?
The answer is election-year politics, with each party battling for any advantage in a climate of voter anger about politics-as-usual in Washington.
At issue is who will get credit for what is considered the most likely outcome - the lower tax rates enacted in 2001 and 2003 getting extended permanently for Americans earning up to $250,000 per family or $200,000 as individuals.
Led by President Barack Obama, most Democrats favor that approach, which covers 98 percent of the taxpayers. They argue that including the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans would cost an additional $700 billion over 10 years that the nation cannot afford.
However, Republicans and some moderate Democrats argue the tax cuts should be extended to everyone to help continue the slow recovery from the economic recession. Otherwise, they say, the return of tax rates to higher levels of the 1990s would inhibit investment and growth.
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