A House Democratic lawmaker complained Thursday evening that the White House is sending "mixed signals" on whether it intends to compromise on tax cuts.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a proponent of President Obama's initial plan to let tax cuts for top earners expire at the end of the year, said it was unclear where the administration stood now on the tax debate.
"I think we're getting mixed signals out of the White House right now," Lynch said on the Fox Business Network, referring to remarks made Thursday by White House senior adviser David Axelrod suggesting that the administration might be willing to compromise.
"We have to deal with the world as we find it," Axelrod told the Huffington Post of the tax debate. "The world of what it takes to get this done."
The White House has seemed to broadcast hints that it might be willing to reach some sort of compromise on the expiring tax cuts, especially after the major Republican victories in last week's midterm elections. Obama and Democratic leaders had previously favored extending all the tax cuts except for households earning more than $250,000 per year, and for individuals earning above $200,000.
Republicans have favored extending all the tax cuts for a few years, if not permanently, and have refused to allow separate votes on the middle-class and high-end tax cuts. The White House has suggested it might be willing to agree to a short-term extension of all the tax cuts, which are set to expire at year's end.
But the president has refused so far to clearly state his preference on how to proceed with the tax cuts. Obama is traveling in Asia and said Friday that he would not stake out a position until after he's had a chance to meet with congressional leaders next week.
"What I’ve said is that I’m going to meet with both the Republican and Democratic leaders late next week and we’re going to sit down and discuss how we move forward," Obama said at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. "But I’m not going to negotiate here in Seoul. My job is to negotiate back in Washington with Republican and Democratic leaders."
Lynch said, though, that the short-term extension might be unsatisfactory to Democrats like himself, who favor letting the high-end tax cuts expire. Some Democrats fear that a short-term extension this time would pave the way to more short-term extensions in the future.
"If you want to just kick the can down the road, you know, I don't know where we end up," Lynch said.