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Obama: Extend middle-class tax cuts now
In his first public appearance since his re-election Tuesday night, President Obama called on Congress Friday to extend tax cuts for the middle class immediately as part of a deal on deficit reduction and spending cuts, a move Republican lawmakers have opposed.
The president also insisted that tax increases on families earning $250,000 or more be part of any eventual agreement to avert the government's looming "fiscal cliff," arguing that voters showed on Election Day that they agree with his proposal for "balanced" deficit reduction.
"This was a central question during the election," Mr. Obama said in the East Room of the White House, with Vice President Joseph R. Biden at his side. "It was debated over and over again, and on Tuesday night, we found out that a majority of Americans agree with my approach. Our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people."
Republicans in Congress have resisted such a tactic, saying tax cuts should be extended for all wage earners, including the highest income Americans, to promote job growth in the weak economy.
Mr. Obama has invited congressional leaders to meet with him at the White House next week to begin talks in earnest. But he insisted tax increases on the wealthy be included, and said tax cuts for the middle class should be extended "right now." He noted the Democrat-controlled Senate has already approved a measure to cut taxes for families earning less than $250,000 per year.
"So let's not wait," Mr. Obama said. "Even as we're negotiating a broader deficit reduction package, let's extend middle-class tax cuts right now. That one step would give millions of families, 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses, the certainty that they need going into the new year. All we need is action from the House. I've got a pen ready to sign the bill right away. I'm ready to do it."
The president and lawmakers are seeking a solution to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect in January.
Mr. Obama campaigned on a pledge to raise taxes for families earning more than $250,000. But Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, reiterated the GOP position Friday that the House will not approve a hike in tax rates.
Mr. Obama said he wants to work with both parties to find spending cuts, including reductions "that will bring down the cost of health care, so we can strengthen the programs like Medicaid and Medicare for the long haul."
"But, as I've said before, we can't just cut our way to prosperity," Mr. Obama said. "If we're serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue, and that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes. That's how we did it in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president."
Mr. Boehner, reacting to the president's remarks, said the Senate bill includes higher tax rates that "are part of the fiscal cliff that economists are warning us to avoid."
"Those increased tax rates will destroy jobs in America by hurting small businesses across the country," Mr. Boehner said. "Republicans are eager to get to work on an agreement that averts the entire fiscal cliff. The House has passed legislation to accomplish this vital goal. We look forward to joining the president next week and working to forge an agreement that will do the same."
Lawmakers will meet with Mr. Obama at the White House next Friday to begin their negotiations.
"The year 2013 should be the year we begin to solve our country's debt problem through entitlement reform and a new tax code with fewer loopholes and lower rates," Mr. Boehner said. "The president has an historic opportunity to lead both parties in forging an agreement that averts the fiscal cliff in a manner that ensures 2013 will be that year."
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About the Author
Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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