Obama ramps up pressure on Republicans over taxes

Following a meeting with Cabinet officials, President Obama stepped up pressure on Republicans in Congress to authorize an extension of the expiring Bush tax cuts for the middle class.

"We don't have the time for any more games," Obama said, flanked by several top advisers in the Rose Garden. "I understand there is an election coming up, but the American people didn't send us here just to think about our jobs, they sent us to think about theirs."

The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year and Senate Democrats are seeking a vote on a proposal before Congress breaks for the midterm elections. But the cuts have sparked a bitter fight between Republicans and Democrats, while also sowing dissent within both political parties over what to do with them. 

Obama's statement followed his first full Cabinet meeting in nearly three months. Wednesday's public efforts were an attempt by the White House to show it is committed to aiding the slowing economic recovery as the midterms approach, while making clear it is standing its ground in the tax fight.

The White House has repeatedly said it wants the cuts extended for individuals making less than $200,000 and families making below $250,000 annually, while allowing the tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.

But it's not clear if that proposal has enough support from Republicans and some centrist Democrats who either want a permanent or temporary extension of all the cuts. 

Obama said that Republicans are blocking a vote on the White House proposal, just as they delayed a small-business aid bill that just cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate this week.

"Once again, leaders across the aisle are saying no," Obama said, accusing the GOP of "holding the tax breaks hostage" until they get an extension for the wealthy.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that the president should focus on dissention within the Democratic Caucus.

“Tax hikes aren’t going to grow the economy, just as no amount of spin can change the fact that the Washington spending spree hasn’t led to a hiring spree — despite the promises of Democrats in Washington," he said. "The good news is that a growing chorus of Democrats, here in the Senate and out on the campaign trail, are opposing the tax hikes the administration is proposing."

The president also praised the Senate for ending debate on the small-business package, but said "it should not have taken this long to pass this bill."

—This post was updated at 6:58 p.m.

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