- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2009

The White House on Monday sharply walked back comments made by two of President Obama’s top economic advisers over the weekend that left open the possibility of new taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year, but offered no new plans for how the administration plans to close a massive federal deficit.

“The president’s clear commitment is not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “He is not raising taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year.”

Mr. Gibbs was peppered with questions on the issue at the daily White House briefing, following comments by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers on Sunday talk shows.

“We’re going to have to do what it takes. We’re going to do what’s necessary,” Mr. Geithner said, when asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos how the administration plans to close a budget deficit that is projected to approach $2 trillion this year.

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Mr. Summers, who is the dominant economic force within the White House, said that “it is never a good idea to absolutely … rule things out, no matter what,” in an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Both men made the comments under questioning about how Mr. Obama plans to reduce the federal deficit while trying to expand health care entitlements and spend money on education and energy reform.

Mr. Gibbs said that the two advisers “allowed themselves to get into a hypothetical back and forth.”

The White House press secretary said that during the president’s daily economic briefing Monday morning, both Mr. Geithner and Mr. Summers were present along with other top advisers, and that Mr. Obama reminded his advisers of the promise he made while running for president.

“We talked about it as an issue. This wasn’t a ‘school is in’ sort of thing,” Mr. Gibbs said.

“The president was clear. He made a commitment during the campaign. That commitment stands,” Mr. Gibbs repeated to reporters. “He’s going to keep it.”

Asked why Mr. Geithner and Mr. Summers did not make that clear, Mr. Gibbs said they “left it to me.”

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