WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama plans a public push to solidify support for tax hikes on the wealthy along with spending cuts to cut the deficit, officials said.
Obama is to meet with labor leaders Tuesday and business leaders Wednesday in the hope of winning their backing for his proposal to let tax rates rise to 39.6 percent from 35 percent on taxable incomes of more than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples, the officials told The Wall Street Journal.
Ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for those wealthy people would raise about $440 billion in new revenue over 10 years, the White House estimates.
He also plans to travel outside of Washington in the hope of broadening national support for the idea, which White House officials believe won voter backing in last week's election, the Journal said.
Obama's meetings with labor and business leaders -- who can influence different lawmaker segments on Capitol Hill -- are to come before he meets with congressional leaders Friday.
The White House wants roughly $1.5 trillion in new taxes over 10 years, largely targeting the wealthy, coupled with spending cuts Obama said in September would reduce the long-term deficit $3 trillion beyond the $1 trillion agreed to as part of a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling.
Congress returns to Washington Tuesday with a looming year-end "fiscal cliff" -- a combination of big tax increases and spending cuts totaling hundreds of billions of dollars scheduled to begin Jan. 1 the Congressional Budget Office predicts would drive the U.S. economy back into recession next year and push the jobless rate to 9.1 percent.
Republicans have said since the election that they're now willing to soften their anti-tax stance to avoid the cliff.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told "Fox News Sunday" he thought collecting more taxes from the nation's highest earners should be part of the mix -- but only by closing tax loopholes, not by increasing tax rates as Obama proposes, and only if Democrats agree to cut federal spending.
"I am optimistic," he said. "I think there is the basis for the deal."
He said Republicans were now "willing to put revenues on the table if we can do it in a pro-growth way, and there is a way of doing that."
Conservative commentator William Kristol, founder and editor of the political magazine The Weekly Standard, told "Fox News Sunday": "It won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. It really won't."
Obama adviser David Axelrod told CBS' "Face the Nation," "I think there are a lot of ways to skin this cat, so long as everybody comes with a positive, constructive attitude toward the task."
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