White House: Obama position on taxes remains unchanged

President Obama remains firmly opposed to extending George W. Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy, a White House spokesman said Wednesday, despite comments from former President Clinton suggesting they should be kept in place temporarily.

“The president's position is that we absolutely should extend the tax cuts for the middle class; we should not extend and he will not extend tax cuts for the highest-income Americans,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to an official transcript.

Clinton, in an interview on CNBC, said he had “no problem” with extending all of the tax cuts temporarily to avoid the year-end “fiscal cliff” that economists warn could slow the economy or even cause a recession. A spokesman for the former president later clarified that he “does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again.”

Carney repeatedly pointed to that clarification as he was pressed by reporters on Wednesday, saying there was “no daylight” between the current president and the last Democrat to hold the office.

Republicans seized on Clinton’s comments to argue for the extension of the full slate of current tax rates for at least a year.

“President Obama has been clear about his position and it has not changed,” Carney said. “We should not extend and he will not extend the tax cuts -- the Bush-era tax cuts -- for the wealthiest 2 percent of the American people. It's bad policy.”