President Barack Obama on Friday brought in a heavy hitter to help build Democratic support for his tax deal: Bill Clinton.
“This is a good bill and I hope my fellow Democrats will support it,” Clinton said during a joint White House briefing with Obama. “The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach.”
The two men met privately before the briefing and then, in an unusual scene, appeared together in front of reporters for several minutes until Obama left Clinton alone to keep taking questions. The former president still carries significant sway with his party — polls show his ratings higher than Obama’s — and brings a new layer of credibility to Obama’s case that the tax deal is the best thing for the economy.
Clinton pushed back on criticism that the roughly $858 billion tax package being sold by the White House is too costly.
“I don’t like deficits, ever,” he said, noting that he erased the federal deficit by the end of his presidency. “But if I were in office now, I would have done what the president has done.”
Clinton offered a bit of advice to both parties about how to get things done under a divided government, something Obama is about to experience for the first time since taking office. Republicans won back control of the House and gained seats in the Senate on Nov. 2.
“People no longer see principled compromise as weakness,” he said. Democrats and Republicans are “going to have to accept” compromise in the next Congress.