Addressing Business Items During Lame Duck Session on MSNBC

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... available to both parties and what are the likely outcomes? ten people were at today's white house meeting and tonight, in ""a last word"" exclusive, we'll talk to two people who were inside that room. a member of the house and a member of the senate. first, i'm joined by house majority leader steny hoyer. mr. hoyer, in the meeting today, early reports indicate that you were talking about the tax rates going forward, obviously, also senate leaders talking about the s.t.a.r.t. treaty. what else was discussed in the meeting? specifically, did you discuss the dream act? did you discuss don't ask, don't tell, as business to be conducted during the lame duck session? >> those matters were brought up as business items that we wanted to address, but you're correct in observing that the discussion largely related to both the continuing resolution and/or an omnibus so that we can fund government for the balance of the fiscal year and for the opportunity to discuss the tax bill or tax bills so that we want to make sure that no middle income individual in america gets a tax increase on january 1st. we want to move ahead on that. obviously, the purpose of the meeting, which i thought was a constructive meeting, was to see if we can find common ground. lawrence, i think we have common ground on the fact that i think all of us want to make sure that middle income americans do not receive a tax increase on january 1st. i'm hopeful that we can move forward on that on which we have found common ground. >> just quickly, before we get back to taxes, on don't ask, don't tell and on the dream act, a law that would allow undocumented students and young people in america who have been here before the age of 16, if they go to college or join the military, to get to a path to citizenship. on those two items, did you see any likelihood that they could be dealt with in the lame duck session? >> yes, i did. now, as i say, i want to make it clear, we did not discuss that at any length. so i can't say from the meeting itself i took that impression, but i believe that certainly in the house we want to see this move forward. we think we're on a path to move it forward. i think the senate wants to move it forward as well. so that i do see a path. >> on the tax strategy in the house of representatives, is nancy pelosi going to force a vote in the house on the democratic version of the tax rates which would be an extension of current tax rates for incomes below 250,000 and an increase in the top tax rate above 250,000? >> lawrence, i would not characterize it as forcing a vote. i think that we may well bring a bill to the floor which incorporates what we have said we think ought to happen and that is to ensure that no middle income person in america gets a tax increase on january 1st. we specifically made provision for that when we passed the statutory bill some months ago, so that we made no secret of the fact that we believe that the policy to make sure that the republican bill, which sunseted and sunsets this december 31st, and as a result middle income wage earners would receive a tax increase if we don't act. it's not a question of forcing, it's a question of we want to act and we will act. >> do you see any flexibility in the final compromise position? because if you do have that vote, do you agree that that is a symbolic vote that has no chance of passing the senate and no actual chance of passing the house? >> i'm not sure that it doesn't have a chance to pass the house. i wouldn't -- i think we can pass it through the house. what i think is, obviously, in the senate, there are discussions about a range of different alternatives. senator mcconnell made it very clear that the republicans were absolutely opposed to delinking a tax cut for the wealthiest americans than middle income americans. if that's the case, the senators and the house members will have to discuss alternatives. in fact the president has initiated and we have responded to convening a group of representatives from the democrats and the republicans in the house, democrats and republicans in the senate to discuss ways forward on the tax issue. >> congressman hoyer, why is $250,000 the top threshold? why is that the definition of rich according to the democratic party? the house? >> i don't know that it's a definition of rich. it is a definition of obviously any figure is somewhat arbitrary, but $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples was felt to be a figure at which reasonable people could ...