ABC News’ Mary Bruce and Devin Dwyer Report:
In a campaign-style speech in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, President Obama today urged lawmakers to extend and expand the payroll tax holiday, questioning Republicans’ priorities as he accused them of protecting the interests of the wealthy over the needs of the middle-class.
Speaking at a high school in Vice President Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton, the president said the economy would be dealt a “massive blow” if Congress failed to act and allowed a payroll tax cut to expire at the end of the year. “I hope that they don’t want to just score political points,” the president said of his Republican rivals. “This cannot be about who wins and loses in Washington. This is about delivering a win for the American people.”
Lawmakers are set to vote on the president’s proposal this week but remain sharply divided over Obama’s plan to pay for it with a 3.25 percent surtax on millionaires. Although some Republicans have come out of exin support tending the payroll tax holiday, they oppose any new taxes to pay for it.
Today the president made clear he stands by his plan to offset the expansion by asking “wealthy Americans to pay their fair share.”
“Are you willing to fight as hard for middle-class families as you do for those who are most fortunate? What’s it going to be?” Obama asked of Republicans.
“Republicans said they’re the party of tax cuts. That’s what they said. A lot of them have sworn an oath to never raise taxes on anybody as long as they live. That doesn’t square with their vote against these tax cuts,” Obama said. “How is it that they can break their oath when it comes to raising your taxes, but not break their oath when it comes to raising taxes for wealthy people? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Republicans are quick to note that they have been trying to work with the White House to find a compromise. “The president’s remarks were somewhat puzzling since we told him 75 days ago that we stand ready to work on jobs bills that represent common ground, including this idea. Though we’ve not heard back, the invitation to get together still stands,” a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
Obama said today that he is going to give Republicans a second chance to “redeem themselves” and vote on the tax cuts. “They may have voted no on these tax cuts once, but I’m already filled with the Christmas spirit. … I want to give them another chance,” the president said. “If they vote no, your taxes go up. Vote yes, you get a tax cut. Which way do you think Congress should vote?”
Today marked the president’s eighth trip to the key swing state of Pennsylvania this year. While the visit was an opportunity for Obama to make a pre-election pitch aimed at white working-class voters, the White House denied the visit was political.
“The president has traveled to many communities across the country to make the case for the American Jobs Act, and the extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut to benefit middle-class families all across the country. Certainly, a community like Scranton seems like an appropriate place for us to have that debate,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today.