Obama: GOP Holding Middle-Class Tax Cuts 'Hostage'

NEW ORLEANS - Just hours after the Senate voted to extend tax cuts for the middle class, President Obama accused House Republicans of holding the tax cuts "hostage" until the nation agrees to spend $1 trillion on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

Speaking to supporters at the House of Blues, the president praised the Senate for moving forward with his plan to extend the Bush-era tax rate for families earning less than $250,000 a year and to let the rate expire for higher earners.

"This is something I deeply believe in, because the middle class is still struggling, recovering from this recession. You don't need your taxes to go up and we could give you certainty right now," he said.

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When it comes to House Republicans, however, the president said their desire to preserve the tax rate for all earners "makes no sense."

"If Congress doesn't act, the typical middle-class family is going to see their tax bill go up about $2,200. Small businesses will also see their taxes go up," he said. "But so far, they don't see it that way. Gov. Romney doesn't see it that way."

The president cast the dueling tax plans as indicative of the broader economic visions at stake in the election.

"They believe in top-down economics," he said of Republicans. "Their plan is to cut more taxes for the wealthy, cut more regulations on banks and corporations, cut more investments in things like education, job training, science, research - all with the thought that somehow that's going to help us create jobs. That's what Mitt Romney believes. That's what Washington Republicans believe."

"That's not what I believe. That's not what you believe. That's not what most Americans believe. We believe not in top-down economics; we believe in middle-class-out economics. We believe in bottom-up economics. That's what we're fighting for," he said.

The president spoke before about 400 supporters who'd paid at least $250 each to attend the event, one of two fundraisers Obama attended in the Big Easy tonight.

In shirt-sleeves and a loose tie, a relaxed Obama said it was good to be back in New Orleans.

"I've got to admit I was thinking about just blowing everything off and going and getting something to eat," he joked. "The next time I come down, drinks are on me."