Angry Obama defends tax deal, with harsh words for both left and right
At White House, Obama touts the tax deal as protecting Americans. But he refers to Republicans as 'hostage-takers' and suggests criticism of the deal by liberal Democrats is 'sanctimonious.'
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Since the deal was announced, the reaction from his liberal Democratic base has been harshly negative, especially over the two-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. The Republicans, he said, would not budge on that point and he did not have the votes in Congress to bypass them.
The president referred to the middle-class tax cuts as having been “held hostage” to the high-end tax cuts.
“I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed,” Mr. Obama said, speaking from the White House’s Brady briefing room. “Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”
Obama’s bottom line was that the middle class not see a tax increase come January and that 2 million long-term unemployed Americans get an extension of jobless benefits, which will now last an additional 13 months. Had a deal not been reached, all the Bush tax cuts would have expired on Dec. 31. Liberal Democrats expressed frustration that Obama didn’t, in their view, fight harder to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of earners.
He pointed out that Republicans would have preferred to see all the tax cuts made permanent, suggesting that his opponents also made concessions.
Most striking was the final question in Obama’s half-hour, last-minute news conference. The president was asked about his core values, a question that appeared to touch a nerve in the usually cerebral Obama. He came across as if he felt misunderstood and unappreciated.
“Look, I’ve got a bunch of lines in the sand. Not – not – not – not making the tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, that was a line in the sand,” he said. “Making sure that the things that most impact middle-class families and low-income families, that those were preserved, that was a line in the sand.”
He added that he also insisted that other tax breaks besides the Bush tax cuts be preserved, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the college tax credit. He wasn’t going to let go of tax breaks “just because they had Obama's name attached to them instead of Bush's name attached to them.”