President Barack Obama on Wednesday said his re-election gives him a mandate to help the American middle class, but he does not presume his opponents agree with all of his ideas.
"I've got one mandate. I've got a mandate to help middle class families," Obama said in a wide-ranging news conference a week after winning re-election Nov. 6.
The president spoke two days ahead of his first talks with congressional leaders to avoid a jump off the 'fiscal cliff' of $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts looming at year's end.
The president said voters sent a “very clear message” that they want both parties to stop bickering over politics and take the necessary steps to cut the budget deficit through a combination of tax increases for the wealthy and cuts in spending. He suggested he was open to "new ideas" and that tax cuts could not be the only way, adding that he wanted ideas for revenue growth as well.
"I just want to emphasize: I am open to new ideas. If the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn't getting hit, reduces our deficit, encourages growth, I'm not going to just slam the door in their face," he said.
Obama opened a White House news conference reiterating his call for Congress to immediately pass an extension of the Bush- era tax cuts for the first $200,000 of annual income for individuals and $250,000 for married couples. He said the rates on earnings above those levels be allowed to rise when they expire at the end of the year.
“We should at least do what we agree on,” Obama said. “I won’t pretend that figuring out everything else will be easy.”
If Congress doesn’t act by the end of 2012, $607 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases are scheduled to take effect starting in January. Taxes on ordinary income, capital gains, dividends and estates will increase, pushing the top tax rate to 39.6 percent from 35 percent.
While Obama has signaled willingness to compromise, neither he nor top congressional Republicans have publicly offered any concessions on their past stances. House Speaker John Boehner cited public support for the chamber’s re-elected Republican majority and said tax rates must not go up.
The president said it would be “very difficult” to cut the deficit by curbing breaks in the tax code without raising rates, a position that has been embraced by Republicans.
“There are loopholes that can be closed and we should look at how we can make the process of deductions, the filing process easier, simpler, but when it comes to the top two percent, what I’m not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don’t need it, which would cost close to a trillion,” he said.
Obama, who meets with House and Senate leaders on Nov. 16, is opening his negotiations with lawmakers by reiterating the plan from his fiscal 2013 budget, which called for $1.6 trillion over 10 years in additional revenue from high-income taxpayers. That’s twice the amount that Boehner, an Ohio Republican, discussed in talks last year.
“I want a big deal, I want a comprehensive deal,” Obama said.
Failure to reach an agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff risks pushing the U.S. back into a recession.
Treasuries 10-year note yields traded close to two-month lows. The benchmark 10-year yield rose one basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, to 1.60 percent at 12:50 p.m. in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.
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