Tags: US | Obama | Congress

Obama Appoints Geithner, Lew to Work With Congress on Extending Tax Cuts

Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 01:35 PM

President Barack Obama said he asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and budget office director Jack Lew to lead negotiations with congressional Republicans on extending Bush-era tax cuts.

Obama said after meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House that both sides agree action is needed to extend tax cuts to middle-income families before the end of the year even as they remain divided on tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.

“There must be some sensible common ground” to resolve differences on taxes, Obama said. He said he appointed Geithner and Lew to break through the “logjam” on the issue.

The White House session was Obama’s first meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders since the midterm elections that put Republicans in control of the House starting in January and narrowed the Democratic majority in the Senate.

“The American people did not vote for gridlock,” Obama said. “They’re demanding cooperation and they’re demanding progress.”

The president said he expects to hold more such meetings to move the partisan dialogue. House Republican leader John Boehner said at the Capitol that he expects the negotiations with Geithner and Lew to begin today.

Tax Cut Differences

Obama and many Democrats want to retain tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 for individuals earning no more than $200,000 annually and married couples with a maximum yearly income of $250,000. Obama has repeatedly said that the U.S. can’t afford to permanently extend the lower tax rates for those with incomes above those figures — about 3 percent of taxpayers.

Republicans want tax cuts extended permanently for all income levels, saying that raising taxes during a fragile economic recovery is a bad idea. Without action by Congress the tax cuts will expire on Dec. 31.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, plans to schedule a vote this week on legislation that would retain lower rates for about 97 percent of taxpayers. The Senate may vote by next week.

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking Republican in the House, said he’ll urge his party to oppose a partial extension.

“We don’t feel that there should be anyone suffering a tax-rate increase right now while we’ve got nearly 10 percent unemployment,” he said on Bloomberg Television.

Criticism of Priorities

Even before going to the White House, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was attacking Democrats, accusing them of “clinging to the wrong priorities” after the election.

“Instead of preventing a tax hike, they want to focus on immigration” and gays in the military, McConnell said.

The Democrats’ “entire legislative plan” for the next several weeks is focused “on anything except jobs, which is astonishing when you consider the election we just had,” he said.

Another topic on the agenda was a strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia and Obama wants ratified before Congress adjourns.

Obama’s drive to win ratification of the treaty he signed with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was dealt a blow earlier this month when Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said a vote should be postponed until next year because there’s too much other business on the calendar before Congress adjourns.

Kyl was among the lawmakers in the meeting.

The president needs support from at least nine Senate Republicans to ensure ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty this year. If the debate is pushed into next year, Obama will need even more Republican votes, since the Democrats will have six fewer senators in the 112th Congress.

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President Barack Obama said he asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and budget office director Jack Lew to lead negotiations with congressional Republicans on extending Bush-era tax cuts. Obama said after meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders at...
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2010-35-30
Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 01:35 PM
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