President Obama and congressional Republicans cast aside the sharp-tongued rhetoric of the fall campaign in their first post-election meeting on Tuesday, but they failed to breach an impasse over whether to extend tax cuts for top earners.
Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for those at all income levels, arguing that’s the best way to boost the economy. Obama opposes extending the cuts to include taxable income for couples exceeding $250,000, saying the government can’t afford the $700 billion it would add to the nation’s debt over the next decade. “Here we disagree,” Obama said at the end of the two-hour session. “I continue to believe that it would be unwise and unfair” to extend the tax cuts for those with higher incomes. Republicans sounded just as determined. “If President Obama and the Democratic leaders come up with a plan … to cut spending and stop all the tax hikes, they can expect a positive response from Republicans,” incoming House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after the meeting. Both sides agreed to appoint negotiators to work on a solution palatable to both sides. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and budget chief Jack Lew will represent the White House. Obama said he hoped they could “get some answers back within the next couple of days.” Obama said he was pleased with the “sincere effort” being made to work together. He said he would invite the group to the Camp David presidential retreat soon to continue its work.