REDFORD, Mich. President Barack Obama warned he wont compromise on his demands that the wealthiest Americans pay higher tax rates, digging in on the chief sticking point between the White House and Republicans as they seek a way to avert the fiscal cliff.
On Monday, Obama brought his pressure-Congress campaign to the heart of industrial America, ripping lines from his own re-election bid as the nation inched closer to a perilous economic cliff. He said the country couldnt afford a manufactured crisis and pledged to cheering auto workers that he would fight to extend tax cuts for the middle class before they expire at years end.
Thats a hit you cant afford to take, Obama said.
Obamas campaign-style trip to Michigan came one day after he and House Speaker John Boehner met privately at the White House. While neither side would characterize the meeting, the mere fact that the two leaders talked face-to-face was seen as progress in negotiations to avoid a series of year-end tax hikes and spending cuts.
Republicans have long opposed Obamas call for higher tax rates on the wealthy, but some GOP lawmakers are suggesting the party relent on taxes in order to win concessions from the president on changes to benefit programs such as Medicare. Still, Boehners office indicated Monday the speaker wasnt ready to take that step.
The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer, said Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman. He was referring to a GOP plan that offered $800 billion in new revenue during the next decade through reducing or eliminating unspecified tax breaks on upper-income earners, but not by raising tax rates.
In Michigan, Obama was more restrained in his remarks, never directly criticizing Republicans and keeping his focus more broadly on the need for Congress to act quickly to prevent a tax increase for middle-class families. During his last trip outside of Washington, D.C. to a toy factory in Pennsylvania on Nov. 30 the president likened raising taxes on the middle class to a lump of coal for Christmas, a Scrooge Christmas.
Obamas plan would raise $1.6 trillion in revenue through 10 years, partly by letting decade-old tax cuts on the countrys highest earners expire at the end of the year. The president wants tax rates to rise on incomes more than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. Individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 would see their top rates rise from 33 percent and 35 percent to 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively.
Boehners plan, in addition to calling for $800 billion in new revenues, also would cut spending by $1.4 trillion, including by trimming annual increases in Social Security payments and raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.