WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama says he will not agree to extend tax cuts for the richest Americans. But the president says he is willing to compromise with Republicans in Congress to avoid raising taxes on the middle class.
In Obama’s first news conference since winning reelection last week, he said the first step in fiscal negotiations is to protect middle-class Americans from paying higher taxes.
“We should not hold the middle class hostage, while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy. We should at least do what we agree on, and that is to keep middle class taxes lower. And I will bring everyone in to sign it [an agreement] right away, so we can give folks some certainty before the holiday season,” he said.
The president and Congress are working to prevent deep cuts in federal government spending that are scheduled to take effect on January 1, if Republicans and Democrats cannot reach an agreement on reducing the federal deficit.
Failure to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” would trigger higher taxes for all Americans.
Obama told reporters Wednesday that he wants an agreement to protect middle-class taxpayers, to provide certainty to consumers and businesses as the Christmas shopping season approaches.
“If we get that in place, we are actually removing half of the fiscal cliff. Half of the danger to our economy is removed by that single step,” Obama said.
The president says his plan would cut $1.6 trillion from the deficit over 10 years by allowing existing tax cuts to expire for the richest 2 percent of Americans.
Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for all Americans.
Reporters also asked Obama about the sex scandal in which CIA Director David Petraeus resigned because of an extramarital affair.
The president said he has seen nothing that indicates the Petraeus scandal involves a threat to U.S. national security.
“I have no evidence at this point, from what I have seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security,” Obama said.
Obama said General Petraeus had an extraordinary career, and that Americans are safer because of the work he did.
The president also said he is confident that progress can be made on reforming the U.S. immigration system.
“My expectation is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration,” Obama said.
Obama said conversations are taking place between members of his administration and congressional staff to write legislation on immigration.