WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama expressed disappointment on Saturday the Senate failed to pass measures extending tax cuts for middle-class Americans but urged negotiators to redouble their efforts to reach a deal in the next few days.
“It will require some compromise but I’m confident we can get it done,” Obama told reporters after Democratic proposals to renew low tax rates for individual income up to $200,000 and up to $1 million were blocked in procedural votes.
Republican opponents argued that low tax rates for the wealthiest should also be extended.
Obama, who faces a test of wills with Republicans emboldened by their gains in the November congressional elections, vowed to keep up efforts through the weekend and into early next week to reach an agreement to renew the Bush-era tax cuts due to lapse at the end of the year.
Seeking to get a deal before the congressional session ends later this month, Obama said he had spoken to fellow Democrats and would deliver the same message to Republican leaders.
“We need to redouble our efforts to resolve this impasse in the next few days to give the American people peace of mind that their taxes will not go up on January 1,” Obama said.
However, Obama insisted, “I continue to believe that it makes no sense to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage to permanent tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, especially when those high income tax cuts would cost an additional $700 billion that we don’t have and would add to our deficit.”
The rare Saturday votes in the Senate had been expected to fail, but Democrats wanted to show that they didn’t support an extension of the lower rates for higher-income individuals.
The votes came two days after the House of Representatives passed an extension of the lower tax rates on individual income up to $200,000. Democrats currently control both chambers but have a larger majority in the House.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick, editing by Philip Barbara