WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday he expects taxes to dominate the conversation when President Obama hosts U.S. congressional leaders Nov. 18.
Obama said earlier in the day he had invited Republican and Democratic leaders to the White House for dinner in the first week of the lame duck session Nov. 18.
Gibbs told the daily press briefing Obama is ready to listen to Republican ideas, though the two sides disagree on whether the Bush-era tax cuts should be extended for families earning more than $250,000 annually.
"Obviously, the president -- making those tax cuts for the upper end permanent is something that the president does not believe is a good idea," Gibbs said.
"But this is -- this is something that I presume will take up a big chunk of the lame duck congressional session, and I think it will take up a big chunk of the meeting that's done that week because, as the president said yesterday, this is -- he's -- he's certainly willing to listen to -- to both sides."
Gibbs noted if the issue does not get resolved, not only will the tax cuts expire but middle-class taxpayers also will be hit by the alternative minimum tax because no patch has yet been enacted for 2010.
At his post-election news conference Wednesday, Obama said his goal is to make sure "we don't have a huge spike in taxes for middle-class families. Not only would that be a terrible burden on families who are already going through tough times, it would be bad for our economy."
Obama has pointed out extending the tax cuts for the top 2 percent of taxpayers would add $36 billion to the deficit next year. Republicans want to extend the cuts for everyone -- and if not everyone, raise the cap to $1 million.
"So my goal is to sit down with Speaker-elect (John) Boehner and (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry (Reid) and (current House Speaker) Nancy (Pelosi) sometime in the next few weeks and see where we can move forward in a way that, first of all, does no harm; that extends those tax cuts that are very important for middle-class families; also extends those provisions that are important to encourage businesses to invest, and provide businesses some certainty over the next year or two.
"And how that negotiation works itself out I think is too early to say."
Obama also indicated he's going to hold Republicans responsible for their campaign rhetoric regarding the national debt and budget deficits.