Updated at 10:49 a.m. on November 11.
Senior White House adviser David Axelrod said this morning that President Obama has not caved to GOP demands on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, despite a report to the contrary.
“We're willing to discuss how we move forward,” Axelrod said in an e-mail to National Journal rebutting a Huffington Post story. “But we believe that it's imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don't believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”
The Huffington Post reported this morning that Axelrod suggested that “the administration is ready to accept and across-the-board continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.”
Speaker-to-be John Boehner was, unsurprisingly, pleased by the news. His press secretary, Michael Steel, was quick to react to the story this morning.
“Republicans made a pledge to America to permanently stop all of the tax hikes scheduled for January 1,” Steel said. “We're glad to see that the president's most trusted adviser now agrees with this course of action, and hope he and the president will show leadership by convincing Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi to stop these tax hikes permanently in the upcoming lame-duck session."
Republican legislators had balked at the administration’s preelection trial balloon of “decoupling” the upper- and middle-income breaks to allow for separate votes -- theoretically paving the way for a permanent extension of the middle-income cuts and just a temporary extension for the top 2 percent of earners.
But after the drubbing Democrats took last week in the midterm elections, Obama said he was open to compromise. In a postelection news conference, Obama made clear that tax cuts for the middle class were a priority, warning Republicans that “brinksmanship” over them would not stand. There had been speculation the GOP might hold middle-class cuts hostage to ensure the passage of all cuts.
“The single most important thing I think we need to do economically -- and this is something that has to be done during the lame-duck session -- is making sure that taxes don't go up on middle-class families next year,” Obama said.
While he argued that the middle class is more likely “to spend that money” than the wealthy, Obama said he was “absolutely” open to negotiation on the cuts.
Aamer Madhani contributed