President Obama revived the tax issue today, calling for a one-year extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts -- but only for the middle class.
In a White House ceremony, Obama said lower tax rates should end for Americans making more than $250,000 a year, citing the government's need to reduce the federal debt and invest in items such as education and infrastructure.
"Everybody agrees we've got to do something about these deficits and these debts," Obama said, adding that extended tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are "least likely to promote growth."
The ceremony featured specially invited middle class taxpayers who, Obama said, face higher tax bills of up to $2,200 if all the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year, as they are currently scheduled to do.
House Republicans -- saying that ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich will hurt job creators -- plan to vote later this week on a permanent extension; the Democratic-run Senate is not expected to follow suit.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile, has called for a one-year extension of all the Bush tax cuts while Congress seeks to revamp the entire tax code.
This morning, McConnell said that "today's proposal is clearly based on a political calculus, not an economic one" -- namely Obama's re-election campaign against GOP opponent Mitt Romney.
"In the Obama economy, we need policies that are designed to create jobs," McConnell said. "Not designed to protect his."
The two parties agreed in 2010 to a two-year extension of all the cuts.
In the months since, Obama has accused the Republicans of seeking to protect their wealthy backers with a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts; Republicans say Obama wants tax hikes on the very people he wants to create jobs.
Obama's latest call for ending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy comes as his campaign criticizes Republican opponent Mitt Romney for his use of offshore bank accounts; campaign aides have called for Romney to release more of his tax returns.
The president plans to take the tax cut message to campaign trail later this week, with appearances in the closely contested states of Iowa and Virginia.
The fate of the Bush tax cuts is not expected to be decided until after the Nov. 6 election, during a December lame duck session.
In his White House remarks, Obama said the parties should go ahead and passed a middle class extension since they agree on it -- though that would cost Republican negotiating leverage over the rest of the Bush tax cuts.
"Let's agree to do what we agree on," Obama said.