Updated: 2:21 p.m.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) joined House GOP leaders today to hammer President Barack Obama on May’s poor economic numbers and call on him to extend the Bush-era tax cuts.
But the White House pushed back with a provocation of its own on tax policy.
McConnell said that in 2010 negotiations with Vice President Joseph Biden to extend the tax rates, the administration argued that the economy needed it. Now, he added, the economy is worse than it was then.
“It’s pretty obvious that the economy needs the certainty of the extension of the current tax rates for at least a year,” he said. “It would also give us the time to begin to grapple with something we all believe we need to do on a bipartisan basis, which is to reform the whole tax code.”
Speaker John Boehner said the May job report was abysmal and the extension of the tax cuts would give certainty to businesses.
“It’s really important that we provide certainty to job creators in our country,” the Ohio Republican said, “and extending all of the current tax rates for at least a year is really important if we’re going to help job creators gain a little more confidence and put Americans back to work.”
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One today, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president would only sign a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for middle-income Americans who make up to $250,000. A bill to extend all or part of the Bush-era tax policy is expected to come up in a post-election, lame-duck session of Congress, which will give lawmakers less than two months to craft a deal before the tax cuts expire at the end of the year.
Pressed whether that applied to even temporary measures that might give Congress and the White House more time to craft a compromise, Carney said that the president “could not be more clear.”
“The president’s position is that we absolutely should extend the tax cuts for the middle class; we should not extend and he will not extend tax cuts for the highest-income Americans,” Carney said. “The question you should be asking is, will the Republicans force a tax hike on 98 percent of tax-paying Americans because they’re holding them hostage to tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans? That’s the question.”
Emily Pierce contributed to this report.