During a flight to the West Coast aboard Air Force One, Carney said in response to questions the president will oppose Republican efforts to extend the cuts, even if that means tax rates for everyone will increase.
"The president's position is that we absolutely should extend the tax cuts for the middle class; we should not extend and he will not extend tax cuts for the highest-income Americans," Carney said.
"The question you should be asking is, will the Republicans force a tax hike on 98 percent of tax-paying Americans because they're holding them hostage to tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. That's the question."
Carney compared the tax policies adopted during the Clinton administration to those currently favored by Republicans in Congress.
"President Clinton, in 1993 -- and I'm old enough to say this from experience because I covered him -- passed a budget plan that included raising rates on upper-income Americans," Carney said. "At the time, Republicans in the House and the Senate, including the very leaders that we have today, decried that budget plan as one that would cause a recession, economic decline, increase deficits, all the worst possible outcomes. What happened? The longest peacetime expansion in American history, 22 million jobs, and a situation where the middle class saw its incomes rise, not just for the wealthiest Americans.
"Let's fast-forward to the eight years prior to President Obama taking office. Those same Republican leaders supported policies that led to a situation where the record surpluses that President Clinton bequeathed on his successor were transformed into record deficits when President Obama took office. The prescription that the Republicans put forward has been tried and it was a woeful failure. And people understand that."