President Barack Obama on Friday suggested Congress immediately pass legislation ensuring that tax rates for middle- and lower-income wage earners don't go up in 2013, a move that he said would help level out the fiscal cliff of expiring tax cuts and major spending reductions looming at year's end.
Obama, fresh off defeating Republican rival Mitt Romney in Tuesday's election, said he has invited leaders from both parties to the White House next week to begin discussing a larger plan for cutting spending, increasing tax revenues and putting the nation's fiscal house in order.
"It's time to get back to work and there is plenty of work to do," the president said.
He said he has already laid out a proposal for helping the nation set its finances right and spur economic growth by both cutting spending and increasing taxes on wage earners who make $250,000 a year or more. Republicans have balked at any such tax increase, however, saying it falls on many small business owners and claiming that it will stunt job growth rather than spur it.
Instead, House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, repeated on Friday his belief that an agreement could be reached that limits or eliminates some tax breaks, which could potentially increase revenues without raising tax rates. In remarks to reporters, Boehner said he is waiting to see a plan from the president, however, and he hopes to reach some common ground.
"This is an opportunity for the president to lead," Boehner said. "This is his moment."
As the parties continue to circle each other, looking for areas of vulnerability, Obama made it clear that while he has already put forward a plan he is willing to try to find common ground with Republicans.
"I'm not wedded to every detail of my plan," he said. "I'm open to compromise."
But as he planned to meet next week with political leaders, as well as inviting business, labor and civic leaders from across the country to begin talks, Obama also suggested the election was effectively a referendum on whether higher earners should pay more -- and his side won.
In the meantime, he said, while there may be disagreement on whether higher earners should pay more, there is general agreement that middle-class earners should not see taxes go up as they would automatically at year's end without new legislation.
"So let's not wait, while we're negotiating ... let's extend the middle class tax deductions right now," he said. "That would take a huge chunk of economic uncertainty off of the table."
That could prove a difficult move for Republicans, however, who hope to negotiate a continuation of all the current tax rates rather than separating them piecemeal.
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