Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama Pleads Case for Tax Hike; He Says the Rich Can Afford It, but Adds He's Open to Compromise

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama Pleads Case for Tax Hike; He Says the Rich Can Afford It, but Adds He's Open to Compromise

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama challenged congressional Republicans Wednesday to let taxes rise on the wealthiest Americans on both economic and political grounds, noting that he campaigned successfully for re-election on the point and contending that it would instantly ease the threat of the "fiscal cliff" plunging the nation back into recession.

"A modest tax increase on the wealthy is not going to break their backs," Obama said of the nation's top income earners. "They'll still be wealthy," he said at his first news conference since winning a second term.

At the same time, the president stressed he was amenable to compromise on other approaches from Republicans who say they will refuse to raise tax rates. "I believe this is solvable," he said.

At a news conference of his own a short while later, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed that a bipartisan "spirit of cooperation" has been evident since the election that augurs well for talks expected to begin Friday at the White House.

However, he said of the president's proposal, "We are not going to hurt our economy and make job creation more difficult, which is exactly what that plan would do." Obama seemed eager to avoid issuing any ultimatums. Asked whether it would be a deal-breaker for Republicans to refuse to allow the top tax rate to revert to 39.6 percent from the current 35 percent, he sidestepped. "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." The president's remarks were his first extended public discussion of the issue that is dominating the postelection session of Congress, and they followed statements earlier in the week from Boehner and Mitch Mc-Connell of Kentucky, the Senate GOP leader.

Both men have said they, too, want a compromise and have said they are willing to support additional tax revenue as part of a deal that includes tax reform and measures to recast the government's largest benefit programs. …

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