- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2009

President Obama says he’s still committed to middle-class tax cuts and will fight Congress to get them passed and made permanent.

“I’m going to be pushing as hard as I can to get it done in this budget. If it’s not done in this budget, then I’m going to keep on pushing for it next year and the year afterward,” Mr. Obama said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program.

The first two years of the refundable tax credit are already in place, having passed in the stimulus spending bill the president signed in February. But Democrats’ budget plans in the House and the Senate do not include a permanent extension of the credit, which can be as much as $400 for an individual or $800 for a married couple.

The fight over the tax cuts, which Mr. Obama says would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, puts him in the same position as his predecessor, President George W. Bush - who won short-term tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, then spent the rest of his tenure fighting to get them made permanent.

“I strongly believe we should continue those tax cuts. We should make them permanent,” Mr. Obama said in the interview, which was recorded Friday and aired Sunday.

On other topics, Mr. Obama said he sees no reason to speed up his timeline for withdrawing most U.S. troops from Iraq, arguing that political reconciliation still needs to occur and Iraq’s armed forces still need the help.

“I am confident that we are moving in the right direction, but Iraq is not yet completed,” he said.

The president has announced a plan to steadily bring home troops through August 2010 but leave up to 50,000 troops in place for what he deems a new, noncombat mission of training and providing security for U.S. interests, as well as a potential staging area to fight terrorism.

On Afghanistan, Mr. Obama said his plan, announced Friday, to dispatch an additional 4,000 troops to train Afghan soldiers, in addition to 17,000 troops he already approved, means the U.S. is finally putting the right resources into that conflict.

Asked by host Bob Schieffer whether that increase means this is now Mr. Obama’s war, the president said: “It’s America’s war, and it’s the same war that we initiated after 9/11.”

He also said he does not yet think more National Guard troops are needed on the U.S.-Mexico border, and instead wants to see whether the hundreds of federal law enforcement agents he has asked to redeploy to the border will be able to stop drug violence from spilling over.

“The main thing we need is better enforcement,” he said.

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