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Obama Stands Firm On Raising Taxes For Wealthy


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block.


BLOCK: Questions for President Obama in his first news conference since his re-election. NPR's Mara Liasson was there and has this report.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: This was President Obama's first full-dress encounter with the White House press corps since March. With his last campaign behind him, the president said his goal was to simply be a better president than he was in his first term.


LIASSON: But first he has to replace several top Cabinet officials, including the secretary of state. One of his favorites for that post in U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice who's under fire from Republicans who say they don't trust her because of comments she made about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Earlier today, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for a Watergate-style investigation into the attacks. The president delivered a fiery defense of his administration and of Ambassador Rice, who he said is being used as an easy target.


LIASSON: Mr. Obama said he hasn't yet made a final decision, but if he thinks Rice is the best person for the job, he will nominate her. Mr. Obama was also asked about the growing scandal involving his former CIA director, David Petraeus, and his commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen.


LIASSON: The president spent much of his time talking about his most urgent piece of business: avoiding the fiscal cliff, the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that will occur at the end of the year if no action is taken. The president made it clear he planned to blame any cliff-diving on the Republicans.


LIASSON: That's not necessary, the president said, repeating the position he's held for more than a year, which is to keep the Bush tax cuts for the middle class but let the cuts for people making over $250,000 a year expire. Republicans are opposed to raising tax rates on anyone, but say they're willing to find more tax revenue by closing loopholes. That won't satisfy the president, who said today there aren't enough loopholes to pay for $1 trillion worth of top-end tax cuts. Mr. Obama and Congress need to get over this first hurdle, resolving the fate of the expiring Bush tax cuts, before they can go on to the bigger tax reform and entitlement reform efforts the president says he wants to tackle next year.


LIASSON: The president has laid out his opening bid: $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue. That's about double the number he and Speaker John Boehner settled on in their negotiations last year, negotiations that ultimately failed to produce a deal. Mr. Obama meets with leaders of Congress on Friday to see if this year he can do any better. Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.

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