Some of those seven Democrats, including North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, say they aren’t ready to commit to President Barack Obama’s proposals for boosting tax revenue. Instead, Hagan isn’t ruling out support for extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for top earners. Landrieu said she opposes eliminating tax breaks for oil companies.Among those defections this story includes is Jay Rockefeller, who of course represents West Virginia, a state Mitt Romney won. Rockefeller, however, is spearheading an effort along with Sen. Tom Harkin to get 30 Democratic senators on board with a letter to President Obama insisting that the tax cuts for top earners expire, that revenue and cuts are matched dollar for dollar, that the defense cuts in the budget agreement go forward, that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cuts are kept out of the mix. So he won't be in that ConservaDem corps trying to protect the wealthy. Rockefeller and Harkin have 15 senators on their letter already, and are working to double that. They'll be boosted next Congress, when Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono and Martin Heinrich join the caucus.
Possible Democratic defections heighten the need for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to woo Republican support for a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff -- $607 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to begin taking effect in January. Lame-duck Republican Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Richard Lugar of Indiana are potential candidates.
Stepping off the fiscal curb won't bring the sky crashing down on Jan. 1. But it will make negotiating for real balance much easier for the president and for Senate Democrats. And here's a bonus: If Harry Reid does filibuster reform right, he won't have to worry about a 60 vote threshold on this, and can cut Hagan and Landrieu loose.