Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney‘s assertion today that he would support extending the payroll tax cut has left him open to criticism from Democrats who are now accusing him of “flip-flopping” on the issue.
Speaking to conservative radio talk show host Michael Medved this afternoon, Romney was asked what his position is on extending the payroll tax cut. The deadline for doing so is just a few weeks away.
“Well, I would like to see the payroll tax cut extended because I know that working families are really feeling the pinch right now,” said Romney.
Romney went on to say that he’d like to “add this as an opportunity to put pressure on the president to finally acknowledge that our entitlement programs in the future, not the current retirees, but the future retirees, is going to have to be adjusted to make sure it’s sustainable.”
Democrats pounced nearly immediately — the Democratic National Committee releasing a “Which Mitt” press release asking, “If the American people can’t trust Mitt Romney to stand up for middle class tax cuts before his back is against the wall, why should they ever trust him?”
In October, Romney sounded different, they said. He was asked by Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg, “Would you be OK with seeing the payroll tax cut?”
“I don’t want temporary little Band-Aids. I want to fundamentally restructure America’s foundation economically,” Romney responded at the time.
While opponents are likely to home in on Romney’s various statements as a shift in policy, the Romney campaign says that he has always been for an overhaul of the tax system, and not short-term fixes.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement that “Mitt has never met a tax cut he doesn’t like but we’re going to need more permanent job creating incentives in order to turn around the economy.”
Romney’s comments came just hours after President Obama made another plea for Congress to extend and expand the payroll tax cut before the holiday recess, and accused Republicans of hypocrisy for protecting the interests of the wealthy over the needs of the middle class. He said failure to agree to an extension would cost middle-class families $1,000 next year.
“How can you fight tooth and nail to protect high-end tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and yet barely lift a finger to prevent taxes going up for 160 million Americans who really need the help? It doesn’t make sense,” Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room.
The President Obama’s reelection campaign wasn’t far behind in jumping on Romney for his remarks this afternoon, spokesman Ben LaBolt releasing a statement, “Mitt Romney proved once again he is no ‘man of steadiness and constancy.’ After belittling the middle class tax cut the President proposed by calling it a ‘little band-aid,’ and saying he ‘is not looking to put money in people’s pockets — that’s the other party.’”
“Mitt Romney flip-flopped and now says he’s for it,” said LaBolt. “What he didn’t tell us is whether he’d also stop refusing to ask millionaires and billionaires to do their fair share and help pay for this essential relief to middle class families, and why his economic plan only offers the typical middle class family $54 in tax relief compared to tens of thousands for the wealthiest.”
ABC News’ Mary Bruce contributed to this report.