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Obama calls on Congress to extend middle-class tax cuts

Flanked by members of his Cabinet and his economic team, President Obama adopted the same "hostage" rhetoric his spokesman has been using to urge Congress to pass an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class immediately.

The president has proposed extending tax cuts for individuals making up to $200,000 and for households that earn up to $250,000, arguing it makes more economic sense than spending $700 billion over the next decade to extend the tax cuts for the top 2 percent of Americans. All the tax cuts will expire this year if Congress does not take action.

"Extending these tax cuts is right. It is just," Obama told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. "It will help our economy, because middle-class folks are the folks who are most likely to actually spend this tax relief for a new computer for the kids or for maybe some home improvement."

The Republican Party wants to see tax cuts for the wealthy extended as well and the White House believes they can use that position to make the cause that the GOP is looking out for the rich and big corporations, while Democrats are the party that will fight for working people. White House Press Sec. Robert Gibbs has repeatedly spoken of the opposition's willingness to hold middle class tax cuts "hostage" to borrowing billions to pay for those tax cuts for the top earners.

While the president had made clear his support for an extension of tax relief for the middle class, today was the first time he called for immediate action to make that happen.

"Right now, we could decide to extend tax relief for the middle class. Right now, we could decide that every American household would receive a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income," Obama continued. "Even as we debate whether it's wise to spend $700 billion on tax breaks for the wealthy, doesn't it make sense for us to move forward with the tax cuts that we all agree on?"

The president was joined on stage by economic advisers Larry Summers and Austan Goolsbee, Vice President Biden, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

He thanked to Senate Republicans -- Ohio's George Voinovich and Florida's George LeMieux -- for breaking ranks and voting with Democrats to allow a small business bill the administration has been pushing for weeks to go to a vote in the chamber, where it is expected to pass and called on members of Congress to work together in a similar way to provide middle class tax relief "in the weeks to come."