News / USA

Obama Campaigns for Passage of Tax Deal

President Barack Obama during a news conference at the White House, 07 Dec 2010
President Barack Obama during a news conference at the White House, 07 Dec 2010

President Barack Obama says the U.S. economy will move backward if lawmakers do not approve a deal to extend tax cuts for the rich in exchange for more unemployment benefits.  While some Democrats in Congress oppose the agreement, the Obama administration is pushing furiously to get it passed.

President Obama started a meeting of his Export Council Thursday by again lobbying for passage of the tax deal.

"Every economist that I have talked to or that I have read over the last couple of days acknowledges that this agreement would boost economic growth in the coming years and has the potential to create millions of jobs," he said.

The president said the outcome of the debate will determine whether the nation's economy moves forward or backward.

"If this framework fails, the reverse is true: Americans would see it in smaller paychecks.  That would have the effect of fewer jobs," said Obama.

The president said earlier in the week he remains opposed to extending the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that began during George W. Bush's presidency.  But Obama said he was not able to persuade Republicans to preserve tax cuts for the middle-class without doing so for the rich.

Meanwhile, members of the president's own Democratic Party in the House of Representatives voted Thursday to reject the deal in its current form.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not bring it to the floor for a vote without changes.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he will bring the legislation to the floor of his chamber, but also wants changes.

Many Democrats, especially those from the party's liberal wing, are angry that the president compromised on what they believe is a main Democratic principle.

Since the deal was announced this week, Obama has emphasized the importance of averting tax increases for average Americans.  He held a quickly-arranged press conference on Tuesday, and spoke passionately about the issue.

The White House has also taken the unusual step of sending out a separate e-mail to reporters each time a member of Congress, state governor or city mayor announces support for the deal.

At Thursday's meeting on exports, Obama also talked about his goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years.

"Every one billion dollars that we increase in exports supports more than 5,000 jobs, and companies that export often pay better wages," he said.  "So a time when jobs are in short supply, growing our export markets is an imperative."

In addition, the president defended his recent free-trade agreement with South Korea, saying it will open the South Korean market to American goods and will support 70,000 American jobs.

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