President Obama said today that while Republicans won this round on extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest incomes, he's ready to fight them on the issue - and win - when the temporary extension runs out in two years.
"In the long run, we simply can't afford them," he said during an afternoon press conference. "And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them, just as, I suspect, the Republican Party may fight to end the middle-class tax cuts that I champion and that they've opposed."
Mr. Obama, who appeared exasperated at times, said that while he can "understand the desire for a fight" on the cuts now, he had no choice but to agree to Republican demands in order to avoid a potential tax hike on the middle class next year. He cast Republicans as "hostage takers" for their unwillingness to compromise. (Senate Republicans, demanding the cuts be extended for everyone, blocked efforts to extend them for all but the top two percent of incomes. Had neither side budged, tax rates for all Americans would have gone up on January 1st.)
He stressed, however, that polls showed that the American people agreed with him on the issue (). He said when the issue is re-argued in two years, as Americans grapple with the budget deficit, "I don't see how the Republicans win that argument."
"I don't know how they are going to be able to argue that extending permanently these high-end tax cuts is going to be good for our economy, when, to offset them, we'd end up having to cut vital services for our kids, for our veterans, for our seniors," he said.Asked what specifically will be different in 2012, he responded, "we will have had two years to discuss the budget; not in the abstract, but in concrete terms." Since the GOP will control the House, he said, "they're going to have to show me what it is that they think they can do."
(At left, Brian Montopoli discusses the effects of the tax cut extension)
"And I think it becomes pretty clear, after you go through the budget line by line, that if, in fact, they want to pay for $700 billion worth of tax breaks to wealthy individuals, that that's a lot of money and that the cuts -- corresponding cuts that would have to be made are very painful," he said. "So, either they rethink their position or I don't think they're going to do very well in 2012."
He added: "I'm looking forward to seeing them on the field of competition over the next two years."
Brian Montopoli is senior political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.