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WH: Obama won't back down on tax hikes for wealthy

After President Obama met today with leaders of labor unions and progressive organizations intent on preserving the social safety net, the White House reiterated that the president will not budge on the matter of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

"I'm open to compromise. I'm open to new ideas. I'm committed to solving our fiscal challenges," Mr. Obama said Friday.

Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that, when it comes to addressing the nation's fiscal issues and the economy, Mr. Obama "is not wedded to every aspect of his plan, and that he understands that in order to reach an agreement, everyone needs to compromise."

When asked whether that meant compromising on his long-standing promise to raise the Bush-era tax rates on income over $250,000, Carney flatly rejected the idea.

"He would, as I said the other day, not sign a bill that extends the Bush era tax cuts for the top two percent," he said. "That has long been his position. It has not changed. He will not sign such a bill. That bill would never pass the Senate, but if somehow, miraculously it did, he would not sign it."

Mr. Obama met today at the White House with labor union leaders, leaders from left-leaning think tanks including the Center for American Progress and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, as well as leaders from progressive groups like MoveOn and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Tomorrow, the president plans to meet with a group of executives, including the CEOs of companies like Aetna, Xerox, Honeywell, General Electric, Ford and IBM. The president has also invited congressional leaders to the White House on Friday.

The meetings come as Congress prepares to tackle the looming "fiscal cliff" -- a series of tax increases and spending cuts slated to go into effect on Janary 1, which could potentially send the U.S. into another recession. The "fiscal cliff" includes the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and the expiration of the payroll tax holiday that Mr. Obama instituted. Around $1.2 trillion in cuts to both defense and non-defense programs are also set to kick in on January 1 unless Washington acts.

Progressives coming out of today's meeting expressed confidence that Mr. Obama would stand his ground on the issue of raising taxes.

"MoveOn's 7 million members will be pleased to know that President Obama today strongly reiterated his steadfast commitment to ensuring that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent finally end December 31--and to protecting the middle class in the process," MoveOn executive director Justin Ruben said in a statement. He added that his organization is staying "fully mobilized" after the election in order to pressure Republicans on the issue.

Similarly, the Associated Press reports, Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry said labor needs to be "as engaged as we were in the election throughout the rest of this year to make sure we get the Republican House to say yes to tax cuts for the middle class."

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi stressed to reporters today that while Democrats are seeking a "balanced approach" to the fiscal cliff that includes new tax revenues, they are primarily interested in finding some kind of solution. "I want you to be disabused of any notion that there's any widespread thought that it would be a good thing for our country to go over the cliff," she said. "We want an agreement."

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