Vice President Joe Biden held a roundtable discussion with workers and small business owners at Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza, a local restaurant in Washington, D.C., that has benefited from the small business provisions in the Recovery Act, as he argued for passage of a bill that would provide tax breaks and a $30 billion lending fund for small businesses.

The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have made passage of the Small Business Jobs Act their top legislative priority as they seek to reduce the unemployment rate before the November elections. The bill has so far failed to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate, but it has been scheduled for another vote when Congress returns from its August recess in mid-September.

Biden’s discussion with the small business owners on Wednesday focused on tax policies for helping middle-class families make ends meet and helping small businesses to invest and grow.

Biden, who chairs the Middle Class Task Force, emphasized the importance of preserving tax cuts for the middle class that provide more than $2,000 per year for an average middle class family. He also stressed the need for Congress to pass legislation to give small businesses additional tax relief and access to capital so that they could continue to invest and create new jobs.

Biden also took aim at Republican claims that failing to extend the Bush tax cuts to those making over $250,000 a year would hurt small businesses. He called the claim “a bunch of malarkey.”

Biden cited several steps taken by the Obama administration to directly help middle-class families and small businesses, noting that they cut taxes by up to $800 for 95 percent of working families (or more than 100 million households) through the Making Work Pay tax credit. Through the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Biden noted that they provided students and their families with a tax credit worth up to $2,500 for tuition and expenses each year, helping more than 8 million students pay for college. The parent of a current student who is benefiting from the AOTC and several parents saving for future college costs joined Biden at the table.

Biden noted that at the end of this year the tax cuts that were put in place at the beginning of the last decade are scheduled to expire. He emphasized that the administration wants to extend tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, but complained that Republicans in Congress were holding those efforts hostage by demanding that tax cuts also be extended for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers. 

The White House argued that the tax cuts would cost $700 billion; and more than half of that money would provide an average of $3 million over the next 10 years to each of the 120,000 wealthiest households in America, which have an average income of more than $8 million a year.

“This is a tax cut that they don’t need, that we can’t afford and that won’t create jobs or economic growth,” wrote Brian Levine, deputy domestic policy advisor to the vice president, in a posting on the White House blog describing the meeting.

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