House Republican Leader John A. Boehner on Thursday called on Democratic congressional leaders to freeze all tax rates for two years — refining recent comments that he was prepared to support President Obama's plan to allow tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans to expire next year.
"It's very disappointing that instead of signaling a willingness to cut spending, the White House is proposing new spending that our economy and our taxpayers just can't afford," said the Ohio Republican during his weekly Capitol Hill press conference.
Mr. Boehner said he has asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, "for nothing short of an up-or-down vote on a bill to stop all of the current tax hikes."
"Anything less than that is unacceptable," the House minority leader said. "If the speaker allows an up-or-down vote, I'm confident that the American people will not see increases in their taxes."
Congress is considering the renewal of tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush. The cuts for most taxpayers expire at the end of this year unless Congress and the White House act.
Lawmakers from both parties support renewing the cuts for individual taxpayers earning less than $200,000 and for couples making less than $250,000 a year. The White House and many Democrats have called for the tax cuts for those earning more to be phased out, while Republicans want to extend the breaks for all taxpayers permanently.
But Mr. Boehner upset many in his caucus when he said on a Sunday talk show that he was willing to swallow Mr. Obama's plan to limit the tax breaks to couples earning less than $250,000 — if that was the only plan on offer.
"If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I'll vote for it," Mr. Boehner said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
The House minority leader also urged Congress to pass a budget that cuts spending back to 2008 levels for all non-security discretionary spending.
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Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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