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Pelosi won't rule out House tax cut vote

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Congressional Producer
  • The vote would be on extending the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000
  • Democrats in the Senate have ruled out a pre-election tax vote by that body
  • Key House Democratic aides believe the House will not hold such a vote before the midterms
  • Pelosi dismissed concerns of major Democratic losses in the midterms

Washington (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Friday she has not ruled out a pre-election vote in the House of Representatives on extending the Bush tax cuts for families making less than $250,000.

"We will retain the right to proceed as we choose. We take it one day at a time," Pelosi said at her weekly press conference.

Senate Democrats have indicated they will delay any vote on the tax cuts until after the November 2 elections.

Despite Pelosi's public assertions, several senior House Democratic aides said it's unlikely the House will take up the matter before the midterms.

"Everything points to us not voting on it before the election, primarily because the Senate is not going to act," one senior Democratic House aide said. "While no decisions have been made, I think the likelihood of it occurring before the election is slim to none."

A significant group of moderate Democrats who are in swing districts have pressed Democratic leaders for a short-term extension of all the of current tax rates, including those for the wealthiest Americans.

Many of these Democrats also would prefer to delay any vote on the issue until after the election. If the House voted for just an extension of tax cuts for those making under $250,000, the aides said, it could give Republicans the ability to argue Democrats voted to hike taxes at a time when the economy remains sluggish.

Several vulnerable House Democrats would rather debate the issue at home and have more time to campaign, as opposed to remaining in Washington and giving the GOP a chance to frame the tax debate, which traditionally favors Republicans.

The message to leaders, one aide to a senior conservative House Democrat said, has been, "Let us go home. If the Senate doesn't vote on it, we shouldn't vote on it."

Pelosi repeated a pledge Friday that the tax breaks for those making $250,000 or less won't be allowed to expire, calling it a "guarantee."

"America's middle class will have a tax cut. It will be done in this Congress. There is no question about that," she said.

All of the tax cuts passed early in the Bush administration are currently scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

Pelosi dismissed recent polls showing Democratic congressional candidates trailing their GOP opponents. The Democrats are "doing just fine. I feel very confident," she said.

The speaker rejected the notion that President Barack Obama's low approval ratings would harm Democratic candidates, saying that "members are clamoring to me to have the president come to their districts. There wouldn't be enough time for him to be able to respond to all of those requests."

Pelosi downplayed her party's recent high-profile criticism of House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, arguing that it doesn't compare to the GOP's attacks on her.

"I don't think you could in any way compare it to the money that is being spent on the ads across the country personally attacking me," she said.

CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report