Vail Valley congressman gets top Dems rethinking |

Vail Valley congressman gets top Dems rethinking

Michael Riley
The Denver Post
Vail, CO Colorado
Denver Post file photoVail Valley congressman Jared Polis' staff has been fielding calls attacking him and thanking him.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado — It was a risky move for a first-term Democratic congressmann, whose district includes Vail, to take on a central tenet of his party’s health care reform plan, but U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’ offensive against a surtax on wealthy Americans has apparently paid off.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi back- pedaled on the proposal over the weekend, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, given the chance on the Sunday talk shows to back the surtax, twice demurred.

But Polis – a liberal congressman from one of Colorado’s most liberal districts – has suddenly found himself under attack from, well, liberals.

“If you dig into the substantive concerns, you find that Polis’ argument is full of holes,” said Faiz Shakir, editor of an influential blog at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

At the heart of the skirmish is the question of how to pay the trillion-dollar cost of health reform, one of the trickiest questions of the debate and one that is already dividing Democratic lawmakers. The House version of the bill raises about half that money from a new tax of as much of 5.4 percent on families earning more than $350,000 or individuals earning $280,000.

Polis led a mini-revolt of House freshmen last week against the surtax, circulating a letter that gained 21 Democratic signatures and claiming that it would take a heavy toll on small-business owners, many of whom don’t file as corporations.

Taken together with similar complaints by conservative Democrats, the revolt shook House leaders and produced a quick pivot by Pelosi, who said in a weekend interview that she would be open to a higher threshold – a tax on families making at least $1 million.

President Barack Obama called the doubting freshmen to the White House to hear their concerns on Friday, and Polis is set to meet with Sebelius today.

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