White House: No change on middle-class tax hikes

The White House on Monday backtracked on suggestions made over the weekend that the administration is considering raising taxes on the middle class.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs came under fire during his daily briefing, the day after senior economic adviser Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in separate appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, opened the door to more tax increases.

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Gibbs said the president remains committed to the pledge he made during the campaign to not raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year. Geithner and Summers, Gibbs said, "allowed themselves to get into a little bit of a hypothetical back-and-forth."

Republican critics seized on comments the senior officials made over the weekend, accusing President Obama of wanting to pay for his ambitious domestic programs and costly economic stimulus plans with taxes from the middle class.

Summers said on CBS that "it's never a good idea to absolutely rule things out no matter what" when it comes to the prospect of new taxes.

"But what the president has been completely clear on is that he's not going to pursue any of his priorities ... in ways that are primarily burdening middle-class families," he added.

Geithner, appearing on ABC, also refused to rule out new taxes.

But Gibbs said Monday that he is "reiterating the president's clear commitment in the clearest terms possible" that Obama does not want to raise taxes on the middle class.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized the administration for the mixed message.

“The American people deserve to know: will the White House guarantee no tax hikes on the middle class during a recession?  Given the mixed messages from his top advisors, the president needs to take a clear stand," he said in a statement.

Gibbs said the subject came up in Obama's economic daily briefing Monday morning, which both Geithner and Summers attended.

He noted, "We discussed it as an issue, but this wasn't a 'school is in' type of thing."

-- This story was updated at 3:55 p.m.