Obama: ‘Massive blow’ if GOP
blocks payroll tax
By JIM KUHNHENN
NEW YORK (AP) — Blending governing with re-election
politics, President Barack Obama roused a cheering northeast Pennsylvania crowd
Wednesday as he warned of a “massive blow to the economy” if Republicans block a
payroll tax extension.
But hours later, addressing donors in New York, he toned his
rhetoric down and declared progress was possible.
Obama took to the road with a dual pitch for money,
campaigning for more cash in the pockets of U.S. workers – and for his campaign
treasury as well.
He pressed his case at a campaign-style rally in
working-class Scranton, Pa., where he said Republicans had to choose between
lower taxes for the wealthy, or a payroll tax cut that would help working
Americans. Republicans say they would support extending the payroll tax cut, but
reject new taxes to offset the costs.
“Are you going to cut taxes for the middle class and those
who are trying to get into the middle class, or are you going to protect massive
tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires?” he said. “Are you going to ask a
few hundred thousand people who have done very, very well to do their fair share
or are you going to raise taxes for hundreds of millions of people across the
Later, in donor-rich New York City where he was raising money for his already flush re-election bid,
he took a more conciliatory tone, acknowledging that Republicans such as House
Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky were also willing to extend the payroll tax, though not with a tax
increase on millionaires.
“For the last couple of days Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell
have both indicated that it probably does make sense not to have taxes go up for
middle class families, particularly since they’ve all taken an oath not to raise
taxes,” Obama told about 50 donors at a Greenwich Village restaurant. “And so
it’s possible we’ll see some additional progress in the next couple of weeks
that can continue to help strengthen the economy.”
The populist pitch in Scranton and the fundraisers in New
York served as political bookends for the president and illustrated the dual
policy and political demands on him as the 2012 campaign season nears.
He first rallied the type of working-class crowd that would
benefit from the tax cuts and then appealed for campaign contributions from
donors, many of whom would be the ones to shoulder the tax increases Obama
Obama told one group of donors that he still needs to make
sure that key aspects of the health care law get implemented in 2014, that
banking regulations are enacted and that energy policies are updated.
“I’m going to need another term to finish the job,” he