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President Obama Set to Renew Battle Over Bush Tax Cuts

Supporters of President Obama; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Supporters of President Obama listen to him speak at a campaign event last week in Pittsburgh. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Three days after a third consecutive disappointing jobs report, President Obama intends to shift his attention Monday to the issue of tax fairness, calling on Congress to pass a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year.

The push isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s a debate the president has been trying to have for months, but given the slowdown in job growth, it has a new frame with the idea of continuing cuts for the middle class.

Mark Landler of the New York Times reports:

Mr. Obama plans to make his announcement in the Rose Garden on Monday, senior administration officials said. The ceremony comes as Congress returns from its Independence Day recess, and as both parties and their presidential candidates head into the rest of the summer trying to seize the upper hand in a campaign that has been closely matched and stubbornly static.

An Obama campaign official said the effort will be backed with events this week in Concord, N.H.; Las Vegas; Aspen, Colo.; and Tampa, Fla., touting the president’s economic policies.

The top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told CNN on Sunday that he wanted to see the tax rates for all Americans left in place for another year, with a pledge to finally overhaul the tax code.

“What we ought to be doing is extend the current tax rates for another year with a hard requirement to get through comprehensive tax reform one more time,” Sen. McConnell said.

The president pledged during the 2008 presidential campaign to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but he ultimately backed off that stance. At the end of 2010, Mr. Obama and congressional leaders agreed to extend the tax rates for all Americans for two years, a deal that expires at the end of this year.

But with Republicans on Capitol Hill demanding the preservation of all the tax cuts, and even some Democrats wanting the rates on people making less than $1 million left in place, it’s unlikely the matter will resolved before the November election.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has proposed permanently extending the Bush tax cuts, but he has yet to engage directly with Mr. Obama on this latest tax fight.


The Obama campaign and top surrogates spent the weekend beating a drum over Romney’s investments in offshore bank accounts, highlighting a Vanity Fair piece that went into the Republican’s finances in great detail. The two campaigns sparred over the issue, with Team Romney calling it an “unseemly and disgusting” “character assault.”

“The Obama campaign’s latest Mitt Romney had a successful career in the private sector, pays every dime of taxes he owes, has given generously to charitable organizations, and served numerous causes greater than himself. Barack Obama has become what he once ran against – a typical politician willing to use false and dishonest attacks to save his job after failing to do his job,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter argued in a statement that voters “can’t make judgments about Mitt Romney’s motivations on critical policy matters if this information is kept hidden” and again urged the president’s rival to release multiple years of tax returns.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt warned in a new “Truth Team” video on the same topic that “Romney could be the first president in history to store millions offshore.” Watch that here, and bonus points for anyone who catches the “Call Me Maybe” lyrics.

It’s an open question if this angle will influence the election, but new data from the USA Today/Gallup Poll of swing states suggests that negative ads are definitely making an impact. Don’t be surprised to see this on the airwaves soon if you live in Virginia or Iowa.

USA Today’s Susan Page reports that one in 12 voters in swing states said they have changed their minds about Mr. Obama or Romney thanks to campaign ads. “More than three of four voters in the battlegrounds say they’ve seen campaign ads on TV over the past month. They’re more likely to recall the negative ones, which have included a barrage attacking the president’s stewardship of the economy and depicting Romney as a heartless corporate executive,” Page wrote. “Nearly two-thirds have seen negative ads about Romney and almost seven in 10 negative ones about Obama.”


As the administration grappled with a “distressing” unemployment report Friday, the NewsHour took a look at the politics behind the figures and what they might mean for the Nov. 6 contest.

Ray Suarez talked to Lanhee Chen, policy director for Romney’s presidential campaign, and Jared Bernstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. He is a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

Chen said the president’s take that the report was a step in the right direction was “remarkably devoid from reality.”

“This is a disappointing jobs report,” Chen added. “There are still over 23 million Americans who are struggling for work. This report signals some real weakness in the economy. And it signals the need for fundamental change to get this economy growing again, to get the recovery truly jump-started, and to get the jobs created that so many Americans still desperately need.”

Bernstein conceded that the 80,000 jobs added in June was “too small a step,” but he insisted the actions taken by the Obama administration have helped.

“So what the measures that the president took did was to break the back of that great recession a lot sooner than otherwise would have occurred,” Bernstein said. “The economy began to expand, and starting in the spring of 2010, we began to get job growth. And the private sector has consistently, too slowly, but consistently, been adding jobs since then.”

Watch the segment here or below.

Also on Friday’s NewsHour, David Brooks and E.J. Dionne (filling in for Mark Shields) offered their analysis on the jobs picture.

The president and his rival are headed into the election thinking the economy will be “a pretty strong negative,” David said.

E.J. said Mr. Obama “doesn’t have much choice at this point.”

“I think he can probably live with the numbers as long as there is a plus in front of them. He can’t live with a minus,” he said.

The duo also debated the stimulus program the president signed in 2009, with David arguing that it will “baffle historians” in years to come that Congress did not do a short-term stimulus for long-term structural reform.

David also outlined what he sees as Romney’s “lay low” strategy. “Let’s focus all the attention on Obama. Just lay low, be as boring as possible,” he said. “The country likes boring right now. Let’s focus on that guy. And that is their strategy. It’s really bad for us. And maybe, if you were running a campaign, it may be what you would opt for too.”

Watch the full segment here or below.


Texas Rep. Ron Paul is still out there, reminding his fans about his goal of a liberty-filled future for the Republican Party.

In a new message over the weekend, Paul promoted his pre-convention event at the University of South Florida’s Sundome on Aug. 26. The theme, he says, is “We Are the Future — A Rally for the Liberty Delegates.”

“We have plenty of room for a lot of people to come,” Paul tells his fans in a web video to go along with the email push. He talked about crowd size and said numbers “are important to validate what we believe in,” but added that “tone is important,” and “if the tone is positive, we are more likely to have success.”

Watch his message here or below.


  • The Romney campaign announced Monday that it (along with the Republican National Committee) raised $106.1 million in June. That’s $6 million more than what was believed on Friday. The two combined have about $160 million in the bank. The money came from all 50 states, and the campaign said 536,729 people gave less than $250 in June.
  • The president leads Romney, 47 percent to 45 percent, in the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll of a dozen swing states. Mr. Obama has a 48 percent to 44 percent advantage in other states.
  • News outlets trailed Romney to the Hamptons for a major fundraiser at the Koch estate. Read those stories here and here. Talking Points Memo rounds up here some quotes from the wealthy people in attendance.
  • The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker has this update on Romney’s veepstakes.
  • Josephine “Ann” Harris died hours after meeting the president Friday morning when he stopped by her restaurant in Akron, Ohio, for breakfast.
  • The Root reports that voter ID laws are the hot topic for the NAACP convention.
  • Gwen Ifill appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. Watch the two panel discussions here.
  • Sasha Issenberg asks in the Atlantic’s Ideas 2012 issue, “If we want to increase voter turnout, would abolishing the secret ballot do the trick?”
  • The New York Times went live with a project depicting voter portraits.
  • House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a fundraiser that he can’t make voters “love” Romney. He said that while “friends, relatives and fellow Mormons” will back the Republican, the majority of people will be at the polls to vote against President Obama.
  • Don’t miss Gwen’s Take on “Messy Liberties.”
  • Kevin Madden is stepping up his role with the Romney campaign.
  • Chris Cillizza is out with a new book. Here’s an excerpt of “The Gospel According to the Fix.”



  • Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Mich., resigned his seat in Congress on Friday, the culmination of a long process after he ended his presidential bid that had him failing to make the re-election ballot and then announcing his retirement.
  • SCOTUSblog has a great tick-tock of how the reporting on the health care ruling went awry.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the radio Friday that he is “very proud” of Chief Justice John Roberts for his vote on the health care law. “I thought that [Justice Anthony] Kennedy was the person that would be the swing vote, and I thought that it could be a 6-3 decision,” Reid said. “But it wound up being 5-4 with Kennedy going way off the reservation, which he has quite a bit lately. I’ve been fairly disappointed with him.”
  • Jonathan Peters outlines in Slate the high court’s history of high-profile leaks.
  • Robert Barnes asks in the Washington Post if the justices should be Googling from the bench.
  • Huffington Post finds fewer candidates willing to sign Grover Norquist’s tax pledge.
  • The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman looks at how the booming economy in North Dakota is affecting the state’s U.S. Senate race.
  • Politico’s Alex Isenstadt takes a close look at campaign trackers.
  • Progressive Change Campaign Committee has a new petition to try and overturn the Citizens United decision and “fight corporate money in politics.”


All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama delivers his statement on extending middle-class tax cuts in the Rose Garden at 11:50 a.m. He also sits down for a series of regional TV interviews beginning at 2 p.m. and attends a pair of campaign events at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington at 4:15 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.
  • Vice President Biden attends a campaign event for Sen. Claire McCaskill in Kansas City, Mo., at 1:30 p.m. He appears at a campaign event for Sen. Maria Cantwell in Seattle at 8 p.m.
  • Mitt Romney hosts an evening fundraiser in Aspen, Colo.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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