WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama, laying down his marker for grueling budget and tax negotiations, said Friday he won't accept any approach to deficit reduction that doesn't ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes.
"This was a central question during the election," Obama said in his first postelection comments on the economy. "The majority of Americans agree with my approach."
The president, speaking before a group of middle class Americans in the White House East Room, said he wasn't wedded to every detail of the plans he outlined during the election, adding, "I'm open to compromise."
But he offered no indication that he was willing to back down on his insistence that the wealthy pay more.
Obama said he had invited congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week to start negotiations on averting the "fiscal cliff" tax increases and automatic spending cuts due to hit in January that both parties agree could cripple the economy.
Republicans, as they did throughout the past four years, say raising tax rates on wealthier Americans is a non-starter. Obama has given in to them on the matter before, but his aides believe he has earned a mandate on the issue through his re-election victory.
Before the president spoke, House Speaker John Boehner made it clear Friday that he's leaving it to Obama to make the first move.
Boehner declined to provide specific proposals, but said he's unwilling to raise tax rates on upper-income earners and any deal
should revise the tax code to lower rates and eliminate some tax breaks.
"I'm proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us," Boehner said in a news conference Friday at the Capitol.
He said cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, known as entitlement programs in Washington-speak, have to be part of the equation.
Boehner also indicated that raising the debt limit, which the government will reach sometime in the spring, should be part of any
negotiations. But pressed for more details beyond that framework, he said he didn't want to limit ideas to address the problem. He punted to Obama.
"This is an opportunity for the president to lead," Boehner said as he opened his appearance. He repeated a version of that phrase four times during the 11 minutes he spoke. "This is his moment to engage the Congress and work toward a solution that can pass both chambers."
Boehner said he and Obama had a brief and cordial conversation earlier this week on the need to avert the fiscal cliff.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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