The Wall Street Journal
By: Tennille Tracy
November 15, 2010
Senior White House adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that the president won't support a permanent extension of tax cuts for wealthy Americans but declined to say whether the White House would support a temporary extension of tax cuts for those top earners.
Mr. Axelrod also reaffirmed President Barack Obama's commitment to securing an extension of tax cuts for the middle class, saying this group of Americans has "taken a terrible beating."
After several days in which U.S. lawmakers have attempted to gauge the White House's willingness to compromise on tax-cut extensions, Mr. Axelrod said on NBC's "Meet The Press" that there will be "no bend" on the president's opposition to permanent cuts for couples making more than $250,000 a year and individuals making more than $200,000.
Mr. Axelrod declined to say, however, whether Mr. Obama would be willing to consider a temporary extension for Americans in those wage brackets. "He's eager to sit down and talk about where we go from here, but the important thing is that we get something done in the next few weeks," Mr. Axelrod said in a separate appearance on Fox News Sunday.
The Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the year, setting up a possible showdown between Democrats and Republicans as they return to Congress this week for a lame-duck session after the midterm elections in which Republicans regained the majority in the House and saw their Senate ranks grow.
Republicans are seeking extensions of tax cuts for all Americans, arguing that a tax increase for the wealthy would hurt the economy and ensnare a lot of small-business owners.
"I hope we can get a permanent extension," Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. "But if the president wants to compromise on a two- or three-year extension, what's important here...is that businesses know what their tax rates are going to be over the next few years." Mr. DeMint has emerged as a tea-party favorite and a rising conservative star within the GOP.
The debate over the tax cuts adopted under President George W. Bush is taking place at a time when policy makers and lawmakers are scrutinizing government spending and revenue levels amid rising amounts of debt.
Just this past week, the co-chairmen of a presidential deficit commission outlined several controversial measures to reduce the U.S. debt, including sharp cuts to defense spending, the elimination of deductions on certain mortgages and a reduction of the federal work force.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) called the plan "simply unacceptable," and Mr. Axelrod said the White House wouldn't slash spending without considering the impacts first.
"We shouldn't cut without sensitivity to the impact of those cuts and certainly Social Security, which is something [Ms. Pelosi] is concerned about, is a grave concern to us," Mr. Axelrod said on Fox News Sunday.
But Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said during an appearance on NBC's Meet The Press that the proposal did a good job of illustrating the steps the country would have to take to chip away at the debt.
Mr. McCain said he hoped the proposal served as "a wake-up call to America" and said all potential cuts "should be on the table."