House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks during a Capitol news conference… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John A. Boehner told rank-and-file Republicans that their fight to prevent tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans is a "principled" position, and one they should maintain despite suggestions that the GOP should yield to President Obama's proposal to extend tax breaks for all but the top 2% of taxpayers.
"We're willing to put revenue on the table as long as we're not raising rates," Boehner said Wednesday in the Capitol. "“The goal here is to grow the economy and control spending."
High-level budget talks are scheduled to resume Thursday with a visit to Capitol Hill by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. Administration officials and congressional leaders are negotiating for a way to avoid automatic tax hikes and sharp spending cuts scheduled to start on Jan. 1, hits that experts warn could tip the economy back into recession.
Congressional leaders from both parties met Wednesday with fiscal watchdogs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the bipartisan leaders of the "Fix the Debt" campaign, a coalition of business executives and leaders of nonprofit organizations that are urging Washington to set aside political differences to strike a robust deficit-reduction deal.
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Tax rates that have been in place for a decade are set to expire on Dec. 31, and Obama has urged Congress to lock the rates in place for most families. He wants to raise the top brackets, from 35% to 39.6%, on incomes beyond $250,000 a year for couples, or $200,000 for single tax filers.
Obama said 98% of taxpayers, and 97% of small businesses, would not be affected by the proposal. Failure to reach a deal, however, would mean higher taxes for nearly all Americans next year.
Most Republicans reject the president's approach. They want to extend all tax rates, even those on the upper 2% of income earners, for another year while talks continue toward a broad overhaul of taxes and spending.
Democrats have refused to allow tax breaks to continue for the wealthy, and Republicans are wary of being blamed for a stalemate guaranteed to produces a tax hike in the new year.
One key Boehner ally, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), reportedly has told fellow lawmakers they should take up Obama's offer -- a strategy that Boehner rejected Wednesday.
"I told Tom earlier, in our conference meeting, that I disagreed with him," Boehner said.
Both parties are taking their case on the road in campaign-style events to raise public support for their positions.
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