In an interview tonight with New Orleans CBS affiliate WWLTV, President Obama vowed to veto any bill that extends the Bush-era tax cuts "across the board," including for individuals earning more than $200,000 and families above $250,000.
"What if Congress were to extend them for everyone across the board, including the wealthy? Would you veto it?" asks WWLTV reporter Karen Swenson.
"I would veto it," Obama said. "Here's why: What I'm proposing is that we give a tax break - that we make sure that taxes don't go up - on 98 percent of Americans. Ninety-eight percent. But to extend tax breaks for that top 2 percent of wealthiest Americans would cost us $1 trillion over the next decade. Now at a time when we're trying to bring down our deficit, to give me a tax break or Warren Buffet a tax break that costs a trillion dollars and 80 percent of that would go to people who make a million dollars or more, that would mean that we'd have to cut something - so a trillion dollars would be cut out of student loan programs for kids going to college, for projects that take care of our veterans, projects that benefit our seniors.
"That's not the best way for us to grow our economy," he said. "I understand Republicans disagree with me on this, my attitude is let's go ahead and work on the thing we agree on, which is give 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses the confidence and security that their taxes are not going up, and then we can have a good debate between now and the election over what we do for that top 2, 3 percent. I'm happy to have that debate, but no need to hold hostage Americans that need some certainty right now."
Republicans responded coolly Monday to Obama's call to enact only an extension of tax cuts for middle-income earners while leaving the issue of whether to extend rates for earners over $250,000 until after the November election.
House Speaker John Boehner, who has said the House will vote this month to extend current tax cuts for everyone, called the president's plan a tax hike on small business owners and job creators.
"How will these small business tax hikes create jobs? Even Democratic congressional leaders and former President Clinton have turned their back on this proposal," Boehner said, noting that several high-profile Democrats have broken with Obama and called for an extension of current rates for everyone but millionaires.
"House Republicans are leading on jobs, and have passed more than 30 jobs bills that the president and his party continue to block in the Senate," he said. "This week, we will vote to repeal the health care law that is making it harder for small businesses to grow and hire.
"We have already announced that later this month we will boost economic growth and create jobs by preventing the looming, massive tax hikes and providing a fairer, simpler tax code that lowers rates and closes special interest loopholes," he said. "President Obama needs to learn that when it comes to jobs and the economy 'leading from behind' is not good enough."