Obama pushes Congress on taxes

Pressing Congress to move forward on extending tax cuts for the middle class, President Obama said he is willing to work with Republicans on changes to entitlement programs.

In his weekly address on Saturday, Obama said Washington could fashion a bigger compromise proposal that could boost the economy and help bring down the national deficit.

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“We can and should do more than just extend middle-class tax cuts. I stand ready to work with Republicans on a plan that spurs economic growth, creates jobs and reduces our deficit — a plan that gives both sides some of what they want,” Obama said. 

“I’m willing to find ways to bring down the cost of healthcare without hurting seniors and other Americans who depend on it. And I’m willing to make more entitlement spending cuts on top of the $1 trillion dollars in cuts I signed into law last year.”

Nevertheless, the president held the line that the wealthy must pay more in taxes as lawmakers work to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff” — a set of massive tax increases and budget cuts that will go into effect early next year.

“But if we’re serious about reducing our deficit while still investing in things like education and research that are important to growing our economy — and if we’re serious about protecting middle-class families — then we’re also going to have to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay higher tax rates,” Obama said. “That’s one principle I won’t compromise on.”

Republicans have pushed back against Obama’s plan, which includes $1.6 trillion in tax hikes. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has offered a proposal that would reduce the deficit by $2.2 trillion, including finding $800 billion in new tax revenues.

In his address, the president criticized the House Republicans’ plan. Obama also said the lower chamber should follow the Senate’s example and pass legislation to keep tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year in place.

“The Senate has already done their part. Now we’re just waiting for Republicans in the House to do the same thing. But so far, they’ve put forward an unbalanced plan that actually lowers rates for the wealthiest Americans. If we want to protect the middle class, then the math just doesn’t work,” Obama said.

The president said if both sides are willing to compromise, a deal could be reached by the end of this year.

“Everyone agrees we need to bring down our deficit and strengthen our economy for the long-term. The question is whether we can do it in a responsible way that allows us to keep investing in the things that have always made America strong. I’m convinced we can. And if both sides are willing to compromise, I believe we can give businesses and families a sense of security going into the New Year,” Obama said.