President Obama at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Thursday… (Michael Reynolds / EPA )
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Saturday that he won't compromise on his proposals to raise marginal tax rates on high earners as part of the fiscal negotiations between the White House and Republican leaders in Congress.
In his weekly radio address, Obama said that raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans was "a central question" during the presidential campaign that got answered on election day.
Obama said he favored a "balanced approach" to reach a deal that includes narrow tax hikes and specific spending cuts to stave off the so-called fiscal cliff: across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts in defense and other government programs next year.
He said he was "ready to work with Republicans" to help reduce the deficit through spending cuts for so-called entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Obama did not specify which specific cuts he would support.
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"We’re also going to have to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay higher tax rates," said Obama. "That’s one principle I won’t compromise on."
Deep tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush are set to expire at the end of this year. If Congress does not extend the cuts for the middle class, the White House estimates a typical family of four will pay an additional $2,200 in taxes next year.
"That would be bad for families, it would be bad for businesses, and it would drag down our entire economy," said Obama.
During the broadcast, Obama once again urged Congress to pass a narrowly focused law that keeps tax rates the same for the first $250,000 of income, but allows rates to rise for income above that level.
The White House is willing to negotiate how high the top tax rate should go up, Vice President Joe Biden said Friday. Unless Congress acts, the top marginal income tax rate will rise to 39.6% from its current rate of 35%.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared to suggest Friday that House Republicans were willing to talk about a rate increase.
"There are a lot of things that are possible to put the revenue that the president seeks on the table," Boehner told reporters when asked if there was middle ground on the top tax rates.
But Boehner's office released a statement later that said Boehner's opposition to higher rates "has not changed."