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Will future of tax cuts be determined in a Congressional lame duck session?

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Bob Moon: Senate leaders have decided not to touch those controversial, expiring Bush tax cuts before the November election. But wait — they’re still promising a lame duck session before all those freshly elected members of Congress take their seats in January. So what are the prospects for those tax cuts during that lame-duck session?

Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports.

John Dimsdale: The hope is that lawmakers no longer facing an election can find compromise.

Government scholar William Galston at the Brookings Institution says lame duck legislators are freer to vote their principles.

William Galston: There are some Democrats who genuinely believe raising taxes on anybody during a recession may not be the best or wisest policy. And there are still some Republicans who believe that deficits matter.

If Republicans gain political clout on election day, they’ll figure they have the votes to cut taxes for everyone next year. Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton, says that won’t be lost on lame duck Democrats either.

Julian Zelizer: They’ll see the country, in their minds, has moved to the right. They’ll be worried about the implications for President Obama in 2012 and there will be a lot of reasons that they’ll want to be cautious rather than bold, even though they don’t have to worry about reelection.

But newly empowered Republicans might be less willing to compromise in a lame duck session. They could allow the tax cuts to expire for everyone figuring they’ll cut them retroactively in the next Congress. But former George Bush adviser Matt Slaughter worries delay could hurt the economy.

Matt Slaughter: It’s important to keep in mind there’s millions of American businesses and households for whom all this uncertainty is not a good thing.

And that uncertainty could continue well past a lame duck session.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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