President Barack Obama challenged congressional Republicans Wednesday to let taxes rise on the wealthiest Americans on both economic and political grounds, contending it would instantly ease a looming threat that could throw the country back into recession.
The president's remarks were his first extended public discussion of the issue that is dominating the postelection session of Congress. Known as "fiscal cliff," it is a convergence of mandatory spending cuts and the expiration of tax cuts that are all scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
"A modest tax increase on the wealthy is not going to break their backs," Obama said of the nation's top income earners. "They'll still be wealthy," he said at his first news conference since winning a second term.
At the same time, the president stressed he was amenable to compromise on other approaches from Republicans who say they will refuse to raise tax rates. "I believe this is solvable," he said during the news conference.
At a news conference of his own a short while later, Republican House Speaker John Boehner agreed that a bipartisan "spirit of co-operation" has been evident since the election that augurs well for talks expected to begin Friday at the White House.
However, he said of the president's proposal, "We are not going to hurt our economy and make job creation more difficult which is exactly what that plan would do."
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