WRITTEN BY: David Jackson, USA TODAY
President Obama, inviting congressional leaders to the White House next week for budget talks, invoked his re-election Friday as a reason for Republicans to back a debt reduction plan that includes higher taxes on the rich.
"This was a central question during the election," Obama said in his first public comments since claiming re-election over Republican Mitt Romney.
"It was debated over and over and over again, and on Tuesday night, we found out that a majority of Americans agree with my approach," the president said. "Our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people."
The president spoke a few hours after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the GOP-run House would oppose any tax hikes but might be open to new government revenue through tax code changes.
"The year 2013 should be the year we begin to solve our country's debt problem through entitlement reform and a new tax code with fewer loopholes and lower rates," Boehner said after the president's remarks.
In extending his invitation to Republican and Democratic leaders for talks next week, Obama said, "The American people voted for action, not politics as usual."
Echoing language he used on the campaign trail, Obama said the nation should reduce the $16 trillion-plus federal debt in a "balanced and responsible way," including higher taxes on the rich as well as spending cuts to middle-class programs.
"I'm open to compromise," Obama said, but he added during his brief remarks in the East Room that he will not support a plan that is not "balanced" with more revenue from the nation's wealthiest citizens.
Boehner said he opposes higher taxes as a way to reduce the debt, saying they would "destroy jobs in America by hurting small businesses across the country." He instead called for an overhaul of the tax code that would include lowering rates while eliminating loopholes.
"Republicans are eager to get to work on an agreement that averts the entire fiscal cliff," Boehner said.
The fiscal cliff is the combination of tax increases and automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 unless the White House and Congress strike a deal to reduce the debt.
Obama noted that Boehner did cite the possibility of new revenue as part of a debt reduction plan.
One key to the fiscal cliff is the set of George W. Bush tax cuts scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Obama supports extending those cuts for the middle class, but not for those Americans making more than $250,000 a year. Republicans want all the Bush tax cuts extended.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would veto any bill that included an extension of the Bush tax cuts for Americans in the top 2% of income.