By Lori Montgomery – Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 7, 2010; 11:16 PM
President Obama said a Republican proposal to preserve the full array of Bush administration tax cuts for two more years presents a “basis for conversation” that could lead to a compromise as lawmakers prepare to meet next week for a high-stakes showdown over taxes.
However, a senior House Republican on Sunday flatly rejected the option most favored by the White House: decoupling the Bush tax cuts that benefit the wealthy from the cuts that benefit the vast majority of Americans by extending each set of provisions for a different period of time.
“No, I am not for decoupling the rates,” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the No.2 Republican in the House, said on “Fox News Sunday.” He echoed the GOP argument that such a move virtually would guarantee the eventual expiration of tax breaks in the upper brackets, where some of the most successful small businesses pay taxes.
“I am not for raising taxes in a recession, especially when it comes to the job creators that we need so desperately to start creating jobs again,” Cantor said. “I am not for sending any signal to small businesses in this country that they’re going to have their tax rates go up.”
The comments highlighted the shifting political landscape in the wake of a Republican landslide in last week’s midterm elections. Obama, who has argued strenuously that the nation cannot afford to keep the tax cuts for millionaires, has been adopting a conciliatory tone in recent days in hopes of reaching a deal with resurgent Republicans to prevent all the cuts from expiring on schedule — an outcome that would sharply increase IRS withholding in January for virtually every American taxpayer, including the middle-class families Obama has sworn to protect.
“My number one priority coming into this is making sure that middle class families don’t see their tax rates go up January first,” Obama said in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” set to air Sunday night.