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Obama Urges Lawmakers to Address Tax Cuts in Lame Duck

President Barack Obama emphasized his opposition to a permanent extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts in his weekly address, but his references to compromise seemed to build on his new openness to negotiating a temporary measure.

Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (Fla.), who delivered the weekly GOP address, also called for action before the tax cuts expire at the year’s end. 

Obama stressed the importance of addressing the expiring tax cuts during Congress’ upcoming lame-duck session, scheduled to begin Nov. 15. “All of us want certainty for middle-class Americans,” he said. “None of us want them to wake up on Jan. 1 with a higher tax bill. That’s why I believe we should permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for all families making less than $250,000 a year.”

But Republicans and some Democrats want the cuts extended at all income levels. Obama has argued that the estimated $700 billion cost for permanently extending the tax cuts for incomes above $250,000 is fiscally unsound. “We’d be digging ourselves into an even deeper fiscal hole and passing the burden on to our children,” he said in the address.

“I recognize that both parties are going to have to work together and compromise to get something done here,” he continued. “But I want to make my priorities clear from the start: one, middle-class families need permanent tax relief, and two, I believe we can’t afford to borrow and spend another $700 billion on permanent tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”

The president never specifically mentioned a temporary measure for higher income levels in his address, but he said at a news conference Wednesday that he is “absolutely” open to negotiating with Republicans on an extension. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs clarified Thursday that Obama is willing to discuss a one- or two-year extension, saying, “Obviously … making those tax cuts for the upper end permanent is something that the president does not believe is a good idea.”

After Tuesday’s midterm elections, Obama invited Congressional leaders from both parties to the White House on Nov. 18 to discuss their plans for the lame-duck session.

In his address, Rubio urged Republicans to focus more on solutions. “The challenges are too great, too generational in scope for us to be merely opponents of bad policies,” he said. “Instead, we will put forward bold ideas and have the courage to fight for them.”

The former Florida Speaker won a three-way Senate race Tuesday with the backing of the tea party movement. In line with his anti-establishment roots, he cast blame on both parties for the country’s problems.

“For too long, Washington has taken our country in the wrong direction: bigger government, reckless spending and runaway debt. And though I’m a proud Republican, here’s the truth: Both parties have been to blame,” he said. “This election, the American people said enough is enough. That message was loud and clear. We Republicans would be mistaken if we misread these results as simply an embrace of the Republican Party. This election is a second chance. A second chance for Republicans to be what we said we were going to be.” 

He called on lawmakers to prevent the tax cuts’ expiration, repeal and replace this year’s health care overhaul, simplify the tax code and tackle the national debt, and he called on American voters to hold him and his colleagues accountable.

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