Obama Makes Opening Bid on Tax Reform, Deficit Deal

The president says he has invited leaders from both parties to the White House for a meeting.


President Barack Obama holds up a pen as he speaks about the economy, Nov. 9, 2012, in the East Room of the White House.

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President Barack Obama, fresh off his re-election win, presented his opening pitch for how to reduce the deficit and deal with looming tax hike deadlines during a brief statement Friday at the White House.

Obama said the election results showed that a majority of voters agree with the approach he campaigned on: to reduce the nation's debt with a combination of spending cuts and increased revenues.

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"It was debated over and over again, and on Tuesday night we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach—and that includes Democrats, independents, and a lot of Republicans across the country, as well as independent economists and budget experts," he said. "So our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people. I was encouraged to hear Speaker [John] Boehner agree that tax revenue has to be part of this equation."

Obama, faulted in the past for failing to reach out to congressional leaders, said he has invited leadership from both parties for a meeting at the White House next week to begin negotiations and to outline points of agreement.

"I'm open to compromise. I'm open to new ideas. I'm committed to solving our fiscal challenges," Obama said. "But I refuse to accept any approach that isn't balanced."

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Boehner, who has held two press briefings in as many days on the topic, says he's open to the possibility of increased tax revenue. But he has been consistent in opposing tax hikes on wealthiest Americans, as the president has proposed, insisting they would hurt small business and slow economic growth.

The president also attempted to frame the debate for the public, reminding them that without Congress acting, taxes on everyone are set to go up as the Bush-era tax cuts expire.

"Right now if Congress fails to come to an agreement on an overall deficit-reduction package by the end of the year, everybody's taxes will automatically go up on Jan. 1," Obama said. "Everybody's. Including the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year. That makes no sense."

Obama proposed that lawmakers pass a law now to prevent taxes from increasing on the group everyone agrees on, the lowest 98 percent of income earners, before negotiating on the places of disagreement. Republicans are likely to resist this approach, as they have in the past, because it reduces their leverage in preventing tax increases on the wealthiest.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at rmetzler@usnews.com.