Barack Obama

Obama firm against tax cuts for rich

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at the Cuyahoga Community College West Campus in Parma, Ohio, near Cleveland, September 8, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama stood firm on Thursday in opposition to a Republican push to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the rich but stopped short of threatening to veto such a measure if passed by Congress.

“There are a whole bunch of better ways to spend the money,” Obama said in an ABC News interview when pressed twice whether he would use his veto power to block such a move. He did not directly answer the question.

Obama, fighting to keep Democrats in charge of Congress, reiterated his view that the United States could not afford to extend tax cuts for wealthy Americans enacted under former President George W. Bush and set to expire at the end of this year. The issue has become a hot-button issue in a congressional election year.

John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, called on Wednesday for a two-year freeze on all current U.S. tax rates, which would cover the middle-class as well as the rich.

Obama has made clear that he would not support such a blanket freeze but says his administration is ready to extend tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year.

Obama, in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” program conducted on Wednesday, said “probably the least efficient way of giving the economy a boost” is to give large tax cuts to “millionaires and billionaires.”

With the unemployment rate at 9.6 percent and the economic recovery sputtering, Obama’s Democrats are struggling to keep control of Congress in November elections.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Bill Trott