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Obama tries to sell Democrats on tax deal

 President Barack Obama pauses during a statement about the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Evan Vu...

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President Barack Obama pauses during a statement about the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vu...

The White House urged disillusioned congressional Democrats Tuesday to accept a tax cut deal President Barack Obama reached with opposition Republicans.
The deal provides the first big test of whether Obama can work out compromises with Republicans after their landslide victory in last month's election. Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives next month and narrow the Democratic majority in the Senate.
While under fire from liberal Democrats who accused him of being too quick to cave in to Republican demands, Obama said he rejects "symbolic victories" that hurt average Americans.
White House aides said Obama counseled pragmatism among party rank and file so that they move on to other issues before the party loses control of the House in January.
White House aides said Vice President Joe Biden will ask Democratic lawmakers to swallow their objections to the administration's proposed compromise with Republicans when he attends a closed luncheon with senators at the Capitol.
Obama's plan would extend Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, including the richest, while also extending unemployment benefits and reducing payroll taxes for a year.
Before the Republicans assume the House majority next month, the White House wants Congress to take up ratification of a new nuclear treaty with Russia, a top year-end priority for Obama, then address the Dream Act. It is a measure to give young people whose parents brought them into the U.S. illegally a path to legal status. Democrats also want to vote on whether to repeal the military's policy that prevents gays from serving openly in the armed services.
Democrats had been fighting to let tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans lapse while keeping them in place for others, but Republicans opposed reinstating higher rates for the wealthy. If Congress fails to agree on the cuts by the end of the year, taxes will go up for all Americans.
House and Senate Democrats say they will discuss the deal in closed meetings Tuesday.
While most Democratic leaders in the House and Senate were noncommittal, some spoke in vigorous dissent.
"Senate Republicans have successfully used the fragile economic security of our middle class and the hardship of millions of jobless Americans as bargaining chips to secure tax breaks for the very wealthiest among us," said Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
Republicans praised the deal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell thanked Obama for "working with Republicans on a bipartisan plan to prevent a tax hike on any American and in creating incentives for economic growth."
On Tuesday, Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who sides with the Democrats, urged his colleagues to quickly back the compromise.
"This tentative agreement is an example of Washington working across party lines to confront the challenges facing our nation," said Lieberman, who is up for re-election in 2012.
In its broad outlines, the deal Obama announced Monday night will extend expiring tax cuts for all Americans and renew benefits for the long-term unemployed.
It marked a significant retreat for Obama, who campaigned for the presidency on the promise that he would leave lower tax rates in place for middle- and lower-income Americans while canceling cuts for families earning more than $250,000.
The reductions were put in place during the administration of former President George W. Bush and were set to expire at year's end.
Obama said he did not like the deal but had little choice. Republicans were refusing to go along with reinstating higher rates for high income earners, forcing Obama to capitulate or see taxes go up dramatically for hard-pressed middle- and lower-income Americans in a period of economic malaise and high unemployment.
"Make no mistake, allowing taxes to go up on all Americans would have raised taxes by $3,000 for a typical American family and that could cost our economy well over a million jobs," he said.
In return for the tax deal, Obama won Republican agreement to drop opposition to continued benefits for the long-term unemployed, which began running out last week. Those payments now will last 13 additional months.
Obama was forced to abandon action on his long-held insistence that the United States could not afford continued tax breaks for the wealthy. He sought to put a good face on the deal, however, noting the agreement was temporary, not the permanent renewal that Republicans had long sought.

Updated : 2021-10-17 18:34 GMT+08:00