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Obama Presses Senate Republicans on Tax-Cut Extension

President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at Scranton High School in Scranton, Pa., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at Scranton High School in Scranton, Pa., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday made another visit to an important 2012 election state seeking support for his economic policies, while back in Washington Democrats and Republicans in Congress continued negotiations on how to pay for an extension of expiring tax breaks for Americans.  

Mr. Obama has returned repeatedly to Pennsylvania, a state he won in the 2008 presidential election and which political analysts say remains crucial to his strategy for winning a second term.

His stop in Scranton, Pennsylvania was his eighth there this year. With a visit to New Hampshire last week, it marked his latest effort to pressure Congress to extend and expand tax breaks scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

President Obama and Democrats control the Senate, where a key procedural vote is expected later this week, say extended payroll tax cuts should be paid for by a permanent surtax on Americans earning $1 million or more.

Republicans generally continue to oppose increasing taxes. However, they are also seeking to avoid political damage that would result from voting against preserving a tax break that would help middle class families, especially during the Christmas holiday.

In Scranton, Mr. Obama sought to keep the pressure on Republicans, chiding them for votes in October that blocked his $447 billion jobs bill, which contained the payroll tax extension.

Republicans, he suggested, care more about opposing tax increases for the wealthy than keeping and expanding a tax break that will help middle class families.  

"How is it that they can break their oath when it comes to raising your taxes, but not break their oath when it comes to raising taxes for wealthy people.  That doesn't make any sense.   I hope that they don't want to just score political points, I hope that they want to help the economy.  This cannot be about who wins or loses in Washington, this is about delivering a win for the American people, that is what this is about," he said.

In 2008, President Obama won Pennsylvania by a 10 percent margin over Republican nominee John McCain, but U.S. economic difficulties have hurt his approval ratings there, and the White House hopes to improve that as the 2012 election campaign heats up.

On Capitol Hill, negotiations continued on how to pay for the payroll tax extension.  Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican Congressman John Boehner, spoke of the need to find common ground.

"There is no debate though about whether these extensions ought to be paid for.  The president has called for them to be paid for.  Democrats here have called for them to be paid for.  So, if in fact we can find common ground on these extensions I think you can take to the bank that they will be paid for," he said.

On troubled efforts to bring deficit spending and debt under control, and disagreements between President Obama and Republicans, Boehner said there was a need for a balanced solution but said there is still "room between us" on what that means.

President Obama's day on Wednesday also included a stop in New York City and three events to raise money for his 2012 re-election campaign, ticket prices ranged from $1,000 to the $35,800 maximum permitted under federal fundraising rules.

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