In his first public remarks since being re-elected, President Barack Obama called on Congressional Republicans to work with him to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” — but warned that he would not accept any plan that does not ask top earners to pay more in taxes.
Speaking in the East Room of the White House, Obama explained that — while he is willing to compromise — he would reject efforts to reduce the deficit without placing any added burden on the wealthy.
“I’m not gonna ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit, while people like me making over $250,000 aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes,” the president said to applause from the audience arranged on stage behind him. “I’m just not going to do that.”
“This was a central question during the election. It was debated over and over again,” he continued. “And on Tuesday night we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach.”
Obama also reiterated his desire for Congress to immediately extend the Bush tax cuts for those making under $250,000, while simultaneously negotiating a broader deficit-reduction package. Congressional Republicans have thus far refused to cast such a vote unless the tax cuts for top earners are extended as well.
“All we need is action from the House. I’ve got the pen,” Obama declared, holding a pen before him at the podium. “I’m ready to sign the bill right away.”
The president’s remarks came about two hours after Speaker of the House John Boehner held a press conference about the fiscal cliff on Capitol Hill. Boehner reiterated that he would not vote to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, claiming that doing so would immediately kill 700,000 jobs — a claim that Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler calls “simply absurd.” Boehner did signal that he could accept a deal that increased revenue through closing loopholes and eliminating deductions, however.
“By lowering rates and cleaning up the tax code, we know that we’re going to get more economic growth,” Boehner said. “It’ll bring jobs back to America. It’ll bring more revenue. We also know that if we clean up the code and make it simpler, the tax code will be more efficient.”
If this plan sounds familiar, it’s because it is essentially the same proposal that Mitt Romney offered during the presidential campaign. Romney’s plan was doubted by nonpartisan economic reviews, and rejected by voters.
Perhaps because of his unsure footing within his own caucus — which memorably killed his and Obama’s “grand bargain” in July, 2011 — Boehner largely avoided specifics and left the onus on the president to drive a deal.
“I don’t want to box myself in,” the Speaker said. “I don’t want to box anybody else in. I think it’s important for us to come to an agreement with the president. But this is his opportunity to lead.”