October 5th, 2011
06:56 PM ET
I asked President Obama today if he endorses Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposed “millionaire’s surtax” during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office with Honduran President Lobo. In fact, he was asked the question three times in all by reporters covering President Lobo’s visit, but he passed on the opportunity to endorse the plan, instead staying mum.
But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made clear today that the White House is open to the idea.
“The meat of this legislation, the President's [jobs] proposal, are the provisions that put teachers back to work, put construction workers to work, cut taxes for working Americans, incentivize small businesses to grow and hire and increase their wages and that will be voted on,” Carney said. “How you pay for it, we've always said, was something we were open to negotiate and debate.”
Why not issue a full endorsement of Reid’s proposed tax increase? It’s an issue of timing, a senior administration official tells me. The tax increases proposed by President Obama to pay for his jobs plan would not kick it until 2013 – he proposes a tax increase on individuals making $200,000 or more per year and couples making $250,000 or more to pay for most of his plan.
Senate Democratic aides tell CNN the Reid tax increase would take effect at the beginning of 2012, a full year earlier than the president has proposed. That would give Republican critics an election-year opening to argue that President Obama and the White House want to raise taxes while the economy is still very fragile.
Since Reid’s surtax is in line with “the Buffett Rule” – President Obama’s assertion that millionaires should not enjoy a lower tax rate than the middle class taxpayers – both White House and congressional sources are confident an agreement can be worked out. When they find that agreement, the White House and congressional Democrats hope to present a unified front, slamming Republicans they anticipate will oppose the surtax as protecting the wealthy rather than creating jobs for middle class Americans.