Obama urges public to pressure House on tax rates in weekly address

President Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to ask the public to pressure the House to immediately pass legislation preventing income tax rates from going up for middle income taxpayers.

“The Senate has already passed a bill to keep income taxes from going up on middle-class families.  Democrats in the House are ready to do the same thing.  And if we can just get a few House Republicans on board, I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way,” Obama said.

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Taxes will automatically go up in January as part of the looming fiscal cliff. Democrats want the current rates for individuals making under $200,000 and married couples making under $250,000 to be extended.

Republicans are resisting passing the bill because they fear they will loose leverage to keep rates lower for wealthier Americans.

This week Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and other members of the House GOP conference floated the idea of going along with Obama on the middle class rates to give some certainty to the economy and to consumers in the holiday shopping season.

Democrats are hoping that under pressure of the ticking clock, enough Republicans will defect to pass the Senate bill.

Obama said in his address, “it’s unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans.”

“A typical middle class family of four will see their income taxes rise by $2,200.  We can’t let that happen.  Our families can’t afford it, and neither can our economy,” Obama said.

The president argued that passing the middle class tax relief would allow time to do a deficit grand bargain later. Passing the bill would still leave $1 trillion in indiscriminate sequester cuts in place over the next ten years that need to be dealt with.

“And with the issue behind us, we’ll have more time to work out a plan to bring down our deficits in a balanced way – including by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, so we can still invest in the things that make our nation strong, like education and research,” he said.

So far, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been able to keep even many of his moderate members from siding with Obama on this issue.

Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) said Friday that what Obama is offering is a "a chump deal."

"It is a little bit like looking in the Yellow Pages, hiring somebody to remodel your kitchen, giving them a down payment and when you call back, the number's been disconnected and he's Florida with your dough,” he told The Hill.

LaTourette said new tax revenue would be acceptable in a deal with real spending and entitlement reforms.

House GOP leaders scoffed this week when Obama offered the spending cuts in his 2013 budget as his opening bid in the fiscal cliff talks. They argue that the $400 billion in entitlement savings are eaten up by new stimulus spending and don’t go nearly far enough to stem the long-term demographic challenges facing Medicare and Social Security.