Perhaps student-loan rates weren’t sexy enough for campaign season. Perhaps the Obama campaign wanted to steer the focus away from this week’s ObamaCare barrage in the House. Perhaps the president needed fresh talking points for a week packed with multiple campaign events.
But around 8 a.m. this morning, the White House sent out an update to President Obama’s daily schedule, adding a statement in the East Room around lunchtime on extension of the Bush-era tax cuts — and rustling up his December 2010 fight that led to a two-year extension of the lower rates.
The Tax Relief, Unemployment Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 heralded the beginning of Obama’s refrain that the Bush tax cuts shouldn’t be continued for the upper-income brackets. That war of words culminated in a compromise temporary extension that was panned by both conservatives and liberals — sparking the legendary eight-hour-plus “Filibernie” on the Senate floor by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Now, just four months out from Election Day and nearly six months away from the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, Obama is reviving that fight in an attempt to paint himself as the candidate who fights for the middle class in the face of millionaire Mitt Romney.
With rows of cheering supporters in front of him and behind him — middle-class families and workers who would benefit from extension of the rates, the White House explained — Obama turned the East Room into a campaign stop and continued the day giving interviews to regional anchors at the White House before heading to closed-door fundraisers at the Mandarin Oriental.
“I believe it’s time to let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — folks like myself — to expire,” Obama said to applause from his assembled admirers. “I might feel differently if we were still in surplus. But we’ve got this huge deficit, and everybody agrees that we need to do something about these deficits and these debts. So the money we’re spending on these tax cuts for the wealthy is a major driver of our deficit, a major contributor to our deficit, costing us a trillion dollars over the next decade.”
Vowing that the American people would side with him, the president challenged Congress to send extensions for all but the wealthy to his desk — and continue to debate tax cuts for the highest earners.
“And then next year, once the election is over, things have calmed down a little bit, based on what the American people have said and how they’ve spoken during that election, we’ll be in a good position to decide how to reform our entire tax code in a simple way that lowers rates and helps our economy grow, and brings down our deficit,” Obama said.
“I hope Congress will join me in doing the right thing,” he added from the bully pulpit.
Congress was in no mood to play these campaign games, though.
“President Obama’s demand to raise taxes on hardworking families and small businesses comes on the heels of the worst quarter for job growth in two years. The uncertainty that is plaguing our economy is a direct result of the president’s insistence on massive tax hikes that will further burden our job creators, already suffering under this administration’s failed economic policies,” said Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
He said that later this month House Republicans will counter the president’s latest push for the tax hike with a comprehensive tax reform package, and invited Obama “to join this bipartisan effort so we can get America back to work.”
“A number of prominent Congressional Democrats are opposed to the president’s call for a massive tax hike – even they know the toll that it will take on private sector job growth,” McCarthy said.
But Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had been hoping to find middle ground by upping Obama’s tax-cut cut-off from $250,000 to $1 million, quickly backed down from their earlier push, with spokesmen promising that the legislators would be “team players” for the president.