Democratic activists criticize possible compromise by Obama on tax cuts

As the midterm election races headed into the homestretch, President Obama focused on energizing groups that traditionally support Democrats -- especially women.
By Perry Bacon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 12, 2010; 10:37 AM

Democratic activists Thursday sharply criticized White House officials after a published report indicated that President Obama is likely to back a temporary extension of tax cuts for households with income over $250,000 a year.

Obama responded Friday that while he was open to compromise, his top priority remains making middle-class tax cuts permanent.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, top Obama adviser David Axelrod said: "We have to deal with the world as we find it," in noting that the White House might compromise with the GOP on the issue. He said that White House officials have long opposed a permanent extension of the tax cuts on upper-income Americans. However, Obama aides also have repeatedly said that they have not ruled out backing a temporary extension of those cuts as part of a compromise with Republicans.

Both parties want to keep the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 for households with income below $250,000 a year. But the GOP wants all the cuts extended permanently, while Obama says the cuts for income over $250,000 do little to improve the economy and would increase the deficit.

Liberal groups cast Axelrod's comments as official capitulation on the issue, even as White House aides emphasized that his position was not new.

"Sign our petition telling President Obama that Americans want him to fight the Bush tax cuts for millionaires - and that Democrats will keep losing if he keeps caving," the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, a liberal group, told its members in an e-mail.

Republicans said that they still want to make all the tax cuts permanent, including those for income over $250,000 a year. In response to the controversy, Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio), said that Republicans hoped the White House would "show leadership by convincing Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi to stop these tax hikes permanently in the upcoming lame-duck session."

According to the Associated Press, Obama said at a news conference in Seoul on Friday that he is open to compromise and plans to meet next week with congressional leaders to discuss the issue. He said his top goal remains making "the middle-class tax cuts permanent - that we give certainty to the 98 percent of Americans who are affected by those tax breaks. I don't want to see their income taxes spike up, not only because they need relief after having gone through a horrendous recession, but also because it would be bad for the economy."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company