WASHINGTON -- Claiming a deal could be done in a snap, Vice President Biden said Friday that the White House is willing to negotiate on where to set the top income tax rate as long as Republicans agree that rate is going up.
Speaking at a diner where he lunched with middle class taxpayers, Biden made the clearest statement yet of what appears to be President Obama's preferred path away from the so-called fiscal cliff -- the set automatic increases and spending cuts set to take effect in the new year.
“The top brackets have to go up. This is not a negotiable issue,” Biden said. “Theoretically we can negotiate how far up but we think it should go -- the top rate should go to 39.6%.”
Income tax rates are set to rise for all taxpayers at the end of the year when the George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire and have become embroiled in a larger battle over crafting a deficit reduction package. Obama says he won’t extend the lower rates for the top 2% of earners, but has signaled that he would accept a lower rate than the Clinton-era 39.6%. Republicans meanwhile have pushed to raise new revenue for deficit reduction by closing loopholes and deductions, and have proposed a broad set of changes to entitlement programs as part of a potential deal.