WASHINGTON — At a meeting at the White House with Democratic congressional leadership Saturday afternoon, President Obama said he would oppose any compromise deal on the expiring Bush tax cuts if it lacked help for the unemployed and other provisions designed to aid the middle class.
Speaking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shortly after the Senate failed to pass his preferred tax cut package proposal, Obama drew sharp lines in the sand with respect to ongoing negotiations.
"The President told Democratic Congressional leaders today that he was open to compromise, but he would oppose even a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts if it did not include an extension of benefits for the unemployed and extensions of the other tax cuts that benefit middle class families," a White House official told the Huffington Post. "Without them, taxes would still rise for 95 percent of Americans."
The official did not have specifics as to what period of time the president would find acceptable for an extension of unemployment benefits. Nor is it clear if the president would be fine with those benefits being offset while tax cut extension remains unpaid for. Among the "other tax cuts" that the president is demanding is the Make-Work-Pay tax credit and "a bunch of others expire at the end of the year."
The remarks are, nevertheless, one of the clearest signs that the president is not only done ceding any more policy turf to the GOP with respect to tax cut negotiations but willing to let rates expire if Republican don't temper their demands.
Said one person with knowledge of what was discussed: "This was the kind of signal that the Hill has been looking for." The question, the person added, is "when is the president going to make this announcement and how is he going to do it."
Putting aside when or how the announcement is made, the quote from the White House official portends a deal along the lines that Hill aides projected last week. In exchange for a temporary extension of Bush tax cuts, Democrats will secure an extension of unemployment benefits, a few more tax cut proposals, and a vote on the START Treaty.