This article was updated on Wednesday June 13, 2012.
PITTSFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's campaign on Tuesday declined to engage an opponent who inferred that the congressman wouldn't be siding with House Democrats in standing up against extending the Bush-era tax cuts when they expire at the end of this year. Meanwhile, another Democratic opponent earlier called Neal's statements on the tax cut issue "outrageous."
In a statement that took aim at Neal, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. cited a report in The Hill, a Washington newspaper that covers congressional affairs, that stated some Democrats "could get on board with a short-term deal that extended all tax rates and didn't implement spending cuts."
That statement from the article didn't specifically reference Neal, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means subcommittee that deals with taxes. But the congressman was quoted immediately thereafter as saying he would listen to a proposal for some "breathing room" if he thought a substantial deficit deal could be achieved.
Nuciforo called on Neal to vote against an extension of the tax cuts and "pledge to not support these tax breaks for the rich under any circumstances."
"We need to elect strong Democrats that are willing to have some backbone and actually stand up against these ludicrous tax breaks that only put us further in debt," Nuciforo said.
"We're not going to respond to that," said Neal campaign spokesman Matt Fenlon.
Neal voted against the Bush-era tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and when they were extended in 2010.
Democrat Bill Shein, running against Neal and Nuciforo, had struck up criticism of Neal's statements even before Nuciforo did on Tuesday.
"Not only is Rep. Neal's statement outrageous, it undermines President Obama's strong position against yet another unwise extension," Shein said in a statment. "It is precisely the kind of embarrassing 'give-it-away-before-negotiations start' positioning that has passed for 'compromise' in the Congress for too long.
"Let me crystal clear: I do not, under any circumstance, support an extension of the deficit-ballooning, income-inequality-widening, starving-our-communities-of-necessary-resources, bending-over-backwards-for-wealthy-interests Bush-era tax cuts for the one percent," Shein said. "We need Democrats in Congress with the backbone to consistently and unwaveringly stand up for economic fairness and the steps that will restore it. If this is how Rep. Neal proposes to use his seniority on behalf of the people of western and central Massachusetts, I'd ask that he please stop, immediately, before more harm is done."
In The Hill article, Neal also said Democrats had hurt themselves when dozens of them voted for the tax cuts to begin with.
"It distorted our message," Neal is quoted as saying.
Shein, an Alford-based writer and activist, and Nuciforo, a former state senator from Pittsfield and the current Middle Berkshire register of deeds, are challenging the 12-term congressman from Springfield for the seat in the new 1st Congressional District in the Democratic primary in September. No Republicans qualified for the ballot.
Neal currently represents the 2nd District. Reapportionment had set up a potential campaign between two Democratic incumbents. But John Olver, who currently represents the 1st District, is retiring.
The new 1st District is made up of 87 cities and towns, including all of Berkshire Coun ty, much of Hampden County, and parts of Hamp shire, Franklin and Worcester counties.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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