* Obama will meet with lawmakers after Thanksgiving
* White House mum on agreement's details
* Push for extending middle, low income tax breaks
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, Nov 17 (Reuters) - U.S. President
Barack Obama will meet with congressional leaders in the week
after Thanksgiving to discuss the "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax
cuts and spending reductions, and he remains committed to
fighting off a tax increase for most Americans, White House
spokesman Jay Carney said on Saturday.
But Carney refused to provide details of the agreement Obama
is negotiating with the country's top lawmakers.
"Everyone expressed the desire to reach an agreement that
reflected the shared goal of achieving a balanced approach to
deficit reduction and that enabled the economy to continue to
grow and create jobs," Carney told reporters about Obama's
Friday meeting with the most powerful members of both parties in
"There are a number of steps that I'm sure the president and
leaders will consider but I don't want to characterize what that
process will look like because we're not near the finish line,
by any means," he said.
If the federal government cannot reach a compromise, then
starting in January about $600 billion worth of tax increases
and spending reductions will kick in. Economists have warned
that the sudden shock of austerity, combined with consumers
putting more of their dollars toward taxes instead of shopping,
could plunge the United States back into a recession.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John
Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi discussed with Obama a framework
presented by Boehner on Friday. Boehner said the outline
included tax reforms and spending cuts.
Since winning re-election last week, Obama has spoken
extensively about his desire to extend the so-called "Bush tax
cuts" for middle- and low-income earners, while allowing the
breaks for the highest earners to expire. He has said that will
keep taxes low for 98 percent of Americans.
But Obama has been quieter on the automatic,
across-the-board spending cuts known as "sequestration," causing
some to wonder if he is working on a plan with different phases.
"Let's begin our work by actually doing what we all agree
on. Let's keep taxes low for the middle class," Obama said in
his weekly radio address on Saturday that did not mention
sequestration. "And let's get it done soon - so we can give
families and businesses some good news going into the holiday
When asked if the president and congressional leaders had
agreed to a "two-tier" plan, Carney told reporters: "You're
getting way ahead of the process." He said Obama remains focused
on the expiring tax cuts for those with middle and low incomes.
Carney said both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and
Chief of Staff Jack Lew "will be very involved in this process
but we don't have designated team leaders."
Along with meeting with members of Congress, Obama spent the
week talking to mayors, business executives, civic leaders,
progressive groups and unions about the fiscal cliff. After
their meetings they all expressed their support of keeping
sudden tax increases at bay.
Speaking on Fox News on Saturday, Representative Chris Van
Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget committee, said
Obama's re-election win gave him a mandate on raising taxes on
"I think that's clear, both in the election results and in
the post-election polls, the exit polls," he said. "This was not
a side issue in the debate. This was a central part of the
conversation that we had."
Van Hollen said that since Obama "has laid out his revenue
plan very clearly," Boehner should lay out his plan.
"He has said some positive things but we haven't seen any
substance to his proposals," he said.