President Barack Obama extended an offer of cooperation rather than confrontation with congressional Republicans over taxes and the budget in a speech Monday, a day after he met with House Speaker John Boehner.
As he promoted his plan to avoid more than $600 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to begin in January, Obama said he’s ready to make a deal with Republicans. Still, he held firm on his proposal to let tax rates rise on top earners as the first part of any agreement.
“Let’s get it done,” he said before an audience of workers at a plant owned by Daimler AG’s Detroit Diesel unit in Redford, Mich. “I will work with the Republicans on a plan for economic growth, job creation and reducing our deficits.”
The factory visit was the latest in a series of Obama moves designed to rally popular support for the White House’s position in the negotiations and pressure Republicans into compromising on a deal.
His rhetoric marked a shift from recent statements about negotiations with congressional Republicans. At a similar outing Nov. 30 at a toy factory in Pennsylvania, he accused “a handful of Republicans” of holding middle-income tax breaks “hostage simply because they don’t want tax rates on upper-income folks to go up.”
The change coincides with an acceleration of private meetings and discussions with the clock ticking down on the deadline for a deal.
In addition to the private White House meeting Sunday with Boehner, Obama called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, from Air Force One on Monday to discuss the status of the budget talks, according to a Senate Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.
White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to characterize the talks between Obama and Boehner, saying it’s in the “best interests” of both sides not to negotiate in public. Carney said Republicans still haven’t delivered details about how they would raise revenue.
“He’s eager to get a deal and he believes a deal is possible,” Carney said of the president.
Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, said that discussions between the speaker’s office and the White House are taking place, but provided no details. Steel said the $2.2 trillion deficit-reduction plan remains the Republican offer on the table.
Polls show most Americans support Obama’s call to let tax rates rise for married couples with incomes of more than $250,000 a year. A Politico/George Washington University survey conducted Dec. 2-6 showed 60 percent support that position. Three-quarters also backed cutting government spending across the board.
Timed to the president’s speech, Daimler on Monday announced an investment of $120 million that will create 115 new jobs at the plant.
“Companies like Daimler know we’re still a smart bet,” said Obama. “They could have made their investments somewhere else but they didn’t.”