WASHINGTON — In a challenge to Republicans, President Barack Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to extend expiring tax cuts immediately for all but the highest income earners as a way to eliminate half of the so-called fiscal cliff that threatens to send the economy back into recession.
“What I’m not going to do is to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that we can’t afford and according to economists will have the least positive impact on the economy,” the president said at his first news conference since winning re-election last week.
Standing in the East Room of the White House, Obama pointedly noted he had campaigned on a platform that called for allowing tax breaks to expire as scheduled on Dec. 31 for the wealthiest income earners.
“A modest tax increase on the wealthy is not going to break their backs,” Obama said. “They’ll still be wealthy.”
House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have both said they are eager to compromise with the president to avoid the immediate tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the end of the year. But at the same time, they have said they won’t agree to raise tax rates for the wealthy.
Boehner arranged a late afternoon news conference in the Capitol to respond to the president’s remarks. The congressional leaders are slated to meet with Obama at the White House on Friday for the first time since the election, and are expected to agree to designate aides to begin the search for a compromise.
Obama met on Tuesday with allies from labor and liberal groups, and invited a group of CEOs to the White House for a mid-afternoon session, also to focus on the threat posed to the economic recovery by the combination of tax increases and spending cuts.