White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says the Obama administration hopes the top House Republican is serious about supporting renewed tax cuts for the middle class, but says GOP hopes to also trim taxes for the rich lack common sense.
Gibbs spoke Monday as Congress was returning to the capital for a pre-election session likely to be dominated by a partisan fight over extending Bush era tax reductions for all wage earners, which expire at year's end. On Sunday, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he would support renewing tax cuts for the middle class but not the wealthy if that was his only choice.
Democrats are worried that November elections could hand the GOP control of the House and perhaps the Senate. The White House and its Democratic allies hope to use the tax-cut fight to cast themselves as defenders of the middle class and Republicans as a party eager to revive the days of the still unpopular former President George W. Bush.
"We're going to take the next 50-some days to convince the public that's exactly what the Republicans would do -- back to the Bush policies," Gibbs said.
He said the middle class should not be used as a political football by Republicans maneuvering to give tax cuts to wealthy taxpayers, who he said don't need the reductions. Republicans say paring taxes for the wealthy would encourage them and the businesses they operate to create jobs.
Congressional analysts say renewing the tax cuts for everyone would cost the government $4 trillion over the next decade. With polls showing a broad public anger over spiraling federal deficits, President Barack Obama wants to exclude individuals earning over $200,000 and couples making over $250,000 -- who account for $700 billion of that total.
Gibbs said borrowing $700 billion to give tax cuts to millionaires "doesn't make any economic sense, and it certainly lacks common sense."
Gibbs spoke Monday on CBS' "Early Show," ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" show.