WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama, eager to shift election-year attention away from the nation's lackluster jobs market, called on Congress Monday to extend tax cuts for only low and middle income earners while allowing taxes to increase for families that make more than $250,000 a year.
"Let's not hold the vast majority of Americans and our economy hostage while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the wealthy," said Obama, flanked by a dozen people the White House said would benefit from the middle class-oriented tax cut extension.
Obama called for a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. He said the outcome of his November election contest with Republican rival Mitt Romney would then determine the fate of the tax cuts for higher income earners.
"My opponent will fight to keep them in place. I will fight to end them," he said.
The full George W. Bush era tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts.
Obama has long supported expiration of the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000. But the White House and the president's re-election team are reviving his arguments now as a way to paint congressional Republicans as obstructionists and Romney as a protector of the wealthy, suggesting the GOP push for an across-the-board extension of the tax cuts puts the middle class at risk.