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Nation & World

Obama urges House to extend bottom-tier income tax cut

(MCT) — WASHINGTON — Even as both parties signaled they were making progress on a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, President Barack Obama on Saturday renewed his call on the House of Representatives to act in the short term to extend lower tax rates for the bottom tier of wage earners, saying it would boost Americans’ confidence ahead of the holidays.

In his weekly video address, Obama called his first post-election sit-down with congressional leaders “constructive” and said there was agreement on the need to act as soon as possible to forestall automatic tax increases and budget cuts that are set to go into effect at year’s end.

But as they work out details on a broader compromise on spending and revenues, Obama said, the House “shouldn’t hold the middle class hostage” and should vote swiftly to send him legislation that would preserve lower rates on the first $250,000 of Americans’ income.

“That means all Americans — including the wealthiest Americans — get a tax cut. And 98 percent of Americans, and 97 percent of all small-business owners, won’t see their income taxes go up a single dime,” he said. “Let’s get it done soon so we can give families and businesses some good news going into the holiday season.”

Leaders from both parties and both chambers of Congress emerged from Friday’s White House meeting signaling that the framework of a deal was coming into view.

“We have the cornerstones of being able to work something out,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. “This is not something we’re going to wait until the last day of December to get done. We have a plan. We’re going to move forward on it.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, even appeared chummy with the Democratic president before television cameras, joking about Obama’s goodwill gesture noting Boehner’s birthday.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, delivering the Republicans’ weekly address, said that ultimately a deal “requires presidential leadership” and called for a commitment to cut spending and reform entitlement programs.

Despite recent gridlock, she noted that President Ronald Reagan was able to work with then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Democrat, on Social Security and other issues.

“If it could be done then, it can be done now,” she said. “It will take courage to address the serious fiscal challenges our country faces. But Americans always come together to solve tough problems. And, for the good of the nation, now is the time for both parties to bring their best ideas to the table.”

Talks will be on hold, however, for at least a week. Obama departed early Saturday for a four-day trip to Southeast Asia, with stops in Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.

He is set to return to Washington on Wednesday in time to pardon the national Thanksgiving turkey before spending the holiday with his family at the White House.

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