Obama signals compromise with Republicans on extending tax cuts

President Obama on Monday inched closer to making a deal with Republicans that would extend the Bush tax cuts and add another year of benefits for the unemployed.

In a speech about the economy in Winston-Salem, N.C., Obama said it is time to reach an agreement on the Bush tax cuts “even if it's not 100 percent of what I want” or what Republicans want.

Obama said that he and Republicans should be doing “whatever it takes” to accelerate job growth and grow the economy.

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The president reiterated his opposition to extending tax cuts for the wealthy, but all indications are that Obama will agree to a deal that would temporarily extend tax cuts for all taxpayers, possibly for two years. In exchange, Republicans would agree to extend unemployment benefits that expired last week for another year.

“I have argued that we cannot afford [tax cuts for the wealthy] right now,” Obama said. “But what I've also said is, we've got to find consensus here.”

White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One that Obama's negotiations with Congress are making progress, and the president expects a deal within the next couple of days.

Obama met with congressional Republican and Democratic leaders at the White House last week, and asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew to meet with lawmakers to produce an agreement.

On Sunday, Republican negotiators signaled that an agreement was in the works that would link an extension of the tax cuts to an extension of the unemployment benefits.

No deal has been made yet, but Obama said on Monday there are “some serious debates that are still taking place.”

Obama, likely foreshadowing the deal, coupled his remarks on tax cuts with what he said is the critical need to extend unemployment benefits for the coming year. He said an extension is “not only the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do.”

Obama said he would also like to see the Senate approve the new START arms treaty with Russia, something Republicans have rejected so far.