President Barack Obama held his first press conference since securing re-election on Wednesday, reiterating that higher taxes on wealthier Americans should be part of an agreement to address the looming fiscal cliff.
Obama once again called for a balanced approach to dealing with the U.S. budget deficit and initially said he would not extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of earners.
"There is a package to be shaped, and I'm confident that parties -- folks of goodwill in both parties can make that happen," Obama said.
He added, "But what I'm not going to do is to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that we can't afford and, according to economists, will have the least positive impact on our economy."
Obama later indicated that he is open to "new ideas" to raise revenues but suggested that just closing loopholes and deductions is not likely to be enough to result in serious deficit reduction.
Republicans have indicated that they are willing to include increased revenues in an agreement but have largely ruled out higher tax rates.
"What I will not do is to have a process that is vague, that says we're going to sort of, kind of, raise revenue through dynamic scoring or closing loopholes that have not been identified," the president said.
Without action by Congress, approximately $600 billion in automatic tax increases and government spending cuts are due to go into effect at the end of the year.
Leaders from both political parties have called for compromise on the issue, although the familiar battle over higher taxes on wealthier Americans could lead to continued gridlock on Capitol Hill.
Obama also address the scandal the led to CIA Director David Petraeus' abrupt resignation but said he is "withholding judgment" regarding the process surrounding the FBI investigation and why he was not notified sooner.
The wide-ranging press conference also touched on a number of other issues, including immigration reform, Iran, and criticism of U.N. ambassador Susan Rice.
Reflecting the ongoing wrangling over the fiscal cliff, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., released a statement shortly after Obama's press conference accusing the president of continuing to engage in campaign rhetoric.
McConnell called on Obama to propose a balanced plan that would "require both parties to do something they would not ordinarily do without either harming the economy or compromising our core principles."
"The scope of this challenge calls for presidential leadership," McConnell said. "That's what the American people should be able to expect, and that's what Republicans are calling for."
"Republicans have shown a willingness to find common ground," he added. "It's now the President's turn to propose a specific plan that includes meaningful entitlement reforms to strengthen and protect these programs for future generations, and that can actually attract the support of both parties as that is the only type of plan that has a realistic chance of becoming law."
Following the press conference, Obama held a meeting with business leaders to discuss the actions needed to take to keep the economy growing and find a balanced approach to reduce the deficit. The president held a similar meeting with leaders of labor and progressive groups on Tuesday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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