President Obama today brought out former president and Democratic heavyweight Bill Clinton for an impromptu press conference to tout his tax cut deal with Republicans that has earned the ire of many liberal Democrats.
"The agreement, taken as a whole," Clinton said, "is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans, and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs, and to minimize the chances that it will slip back, which is what has happened in other financial collapses."
The former president was at the White House for a meeting with Obama. The president said he had a "terrific meeting" with Clinton, who he introduced as the president who "presided over as good of an economy as we've seen in our lifetimes."
The last time the White House brought out the former president was earlier this year, when Clinton visited Democratic lawmakers to stump for the health care bill.
In the briefing room today, a seemingly comfortable Clinton pushed his fellow Democrats dubious of the deal to support the president.
"In my opinion, this is a good bill and I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it," Clinton said. "I thank the Republican leaders for agreeing to include things that were important to the president.
"There's never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of the partisans, and we all see this differently, but I really believe this will be a significant net plus for the country," he added.
"If I were in office now, I would've done what the president has done," Clinton said later.
Obama's deal with Republicans entails new tax credits and tax cut extension for all income groups for two years. It also includes an estate tax provision that would lower taxes on inherited income.
Democrats charge that the president caved in too quickly to Republican demands and that he should have stuck with his original argument to extend tax cuts only for lower- and middle-income groups.
On Thursday, House Democrats passed a resolution overwhelmingly rejecting the deal and highlighting the growing rift inside the president's own party. In the Senate today, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., railed against the bill for more than eight full hours, saying that the president made a "bad compromise."
Obama has argued that he had to find a compromise to make sure middle-class Americans weren't slapped with tax hikes in 2011. The White House also got some concessions, including an extension of several tax credits and unemployment benefits for another 13 months that are expected to help about 9 million Americans.
Clinton backed up his predecessor and disagreed with his Democratic colleagues that the agreement is a bad deal, and argued that waiting actually would hurt Democrats.
Echoing Obama, Clinton said he disagreed with extending tax cuts for high-income earners like himself, but argued that timing was important.
"In January, they [Republicans] will be in the majority and this [majority] would dramatically reduce their incentive to extend unemployment benefits, to support the conversion of Make Work Pay tax credit that President Obama enacted into this payroll tax [credit]," Clinton said.