Obama picks tax-cut fight with Republicans

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

President Barack Obama will call Monday for a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts that chiefly benefit families making less than $250,000 annually, setting an election-year collision course with Republicans that seems designed to amplify his core campaign message. An Obama aide confirmed the news, which was first reported in The New York Times.

Obama's proposal will put him at odds with Republicans, including Mitt Romney, who have called for extending all the tax cuts—including those for the wealthiest Americans. The president hopes that what some of his advisers are calling the "tax fairness" argument will win over voters struggling in the fitful economy three and a half years after he took office vowing to fix it.

Obama's 11:50 a.m. announcement in the East Room of the White House will feature some Americans who stand to benefit from the proposed extension. The president will also do a series of interviews with local and regional television anchors from six battleground states: Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin. He will also sit down for chats with anchors from Kentucky and Louisiana, which are not seen as tossups in November.

Obama will press his message on a campaign trip to Iowa on Tuesday. And his re-election operation will host a series of events in other battleground states this week to amplify that theme.The president signed legislation in December 2010 to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts to the end of this year, saying that doing so was necessary to spur growth. But even then he made clear that he favored letting the reductions for the highest-income Americans expire. He has consistently said since then that the wealthiest should pay more in taxes. Republicans have cast this as Obama pushing a tax increase on investors, and warned that it would smother already weak job growth. Ahead of the president's remarks, Republicans were characterizing his proposal as a tax hike on small businesses.

With national unemployment at 8.2 percent and little relief expected between now and Nov. 6, the Obama campaign has sought to convince struggling Americans that he has their best interests at heart. He has urged voters to see the election as a choice between his approach and Romney's, not as a referendum on the last three and a half years.

Obama's tax-cut proposal was expected to meet the same fate as his jobs plan: a lingering death from chiefly Republican opposition in a gridlocked Congress. That may not damage the initiative's political value to the president, who has told voters that the main obstacle to the recovery is a Republican-engineered "stalemate" in polarized Washington.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed on Sunday for a full extension of the tax cuts.

"What we ought to be doing is extend the current tax rates for another year with a hard requirement to get through comprehensive tax reform one more time," McConnell said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Pointing to the 2010 compromise, McConnell said, "The president signed it because he argued that to let taxes go up would make the economy worse. We have a slower growth rate today than we had then."

But a top adviser to Obama's re-election campaign, Robert Gibbs, said on the same program that the president would not budge on letting the tax cuts for the richest Americans expire.

"He is 100 percent committed to it," Gibbs said.