WASHINGTON — Despite cautions from President Obama's top economic advisors that new taxes for middle-income Americans could not be ruled out, the White House insisted Monday that the president would not raise taxes on those earning less than $250,000 a year.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and chief economic advisor Lawrence H. Summers had suggested during appearances on the Sunday talk shows that tax increases could not be ruled out for people earning less than that.
But White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs adamantly and repeatedly insisted Monday that Obama remained committed to his campaign pledge -- though Gibbs was unable to explain why Geithner and Summers had strayed from the administration's line.
"The president's clear commitment is not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year," Gibbs said.
Geithner, in an interview on ABC News' "This Week," said bringing the federal deficit under control remained a high priority. The deficit is projected to reach a record $1.8 trillion this year, though Obama has pledged to cut it in half by the end of his term.
Maintaining that overhauling healthcare alone won't bring the deficit under control, Geithner left open the possibility that additional tax revenue may be needed.
"We can't make these judgments yet about what exactly it's going to take and how we're going to get there," Geithner said. "If we want an economy that is going to grow in the future, people have to understand that we have to bring those deficits down.
"It's going to be difficult . . . and the path to that is through healthcare reform," he said. "But that's necessary, but not sufficient. We're going to do some other things too."
Later on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Summers was asked about the Treasury secretary's remarks.
"Was [Geithner] laying the groundwork here for a new round of taxes?" host Bob Schieffer asked.
No, Summers replied.
No tax increases for "middle-income Americans?" Schieffer pressed.
"Oh, there's a lot that could happen over time," Summers said. "It's never a good idea to absolutely rule things . . . out no matter what."
Asked why the president's advisors had not stated the commitment to avoid new taxes for the middle class as adamantly as the White House did Monday, Gibbs replied, "They left it to me."
Gibbs also was asked whether other administration officials would be "on message" from now on.
"Promising that everybody is going to be on message may be a bar that is too high for me to leap over," he said with a smile.