Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee want the committee’s Democratic chairman to start working on a bill that would extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts.

Senate Finance Committee ranking Republican member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Republican Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and other members of the Finance Committee have written a letter to committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., reiterating a request for the committee to mark up an extension of the current individual tax rates and other current tax provisions before they expire at the end of the year. In the letter, they reminded Baucus of a Republican agreement last month to limit the number of amendments they would introduce during the mark-up.

“It would be a mistake for the Senate to consider such an important piece of tax legislation without its first having been marked up by the Finance Committee,” they wrote. “The Committee process would provide the members the ability to use the Committee’s collective expertise to produce a consensus product that is the result of a deliberative process rather than a partisan bill that is hastily written behind closed doors. We also need time for the entire Senate to engage in a substantive amendment process — which could also be limited to the topics covered by the bill — that allows members who are not on the Committee to be heard.”

Besides the expiration of the individual tax rates, other topics cited in the letter include expired provisions like the R&D tax credit, an estate tax compromise, and energy taxes.

The letter closes in a promising way, though: “Under your leadership, we believe the Finance Committee’s central role in crafting tax policy can be restored and pledge to work together in a bipartisan manner to prevent the draconian tax hikes that will result if we fail to act.”

Let’s hope that “bipartisan manner” continues after the Senate returns from its August recess. With the midterm elections fast approaching in November, the spirit of bipartisan cooperation is sure to be in short supply in Washington.