WHITE HOUSE - President Barack Obama is asking Americans to pressure Republican lawmakers to vote for legislation he says would prevent a tax increase on the middle class. The president is conducting a public campaign to get his wish.
American families and businesses will face higher taxes January 1 if Congress does not pass, and Obama does not sign, legislation preventing this from happening.
The president wants to preserve the tax break for all but the richest Americans, while Republicans want the tax cuts extended for top income-earners as well. If Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on a plan by the end of the year, all Americans will see their taxes rise.
Obama spoke Wednesday in front of a group of middle-class Americans who were invited to the White House to demonstrate their support for his economic plan.
There was no question about who the message was intended to reach.
“If we can get a few House Republicans to agree as well, I will sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way," Obama said "I have got to repeat: I have got a pen, and I am ready to sign it.”
The president implored Americans to use their telephones, email and social media accounts to help him make his case to Republicans in Congress, some of whom have signaled a willingness to compromise.
“Today, I am asking Congress to listen to the people who sent us here to serve," he said. "I am asking Americans all across the country to make your voice heard.”
Obama’s campaign has not just been targeted toward the middle class. This week he has also sought support from business and labor leaders.
“I am sitting down with CEOs. I am sitting down with labor leaders. I am talking to leaders in Congress,” he said.
Some Republicans said the White House campaign will cause more harm than good, leading opposition lawmakers to turn against the president. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday Obama needs to stop campaigning and get to work.
“It seems like our friends on the other side are having some difficulty kind of turning off the campaign, McConnell said. "We need to sit down and work this matter out. I think we have a clear sense that there is an opportunity here at the end of the year to do something important for the country.”
The president and the leaders in Congress have held only one meeting on the issue, on November 16.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, however, is to meet separately Thursday with Senator McConnell and other leaders of the House and Senate.