President Obama challenged congressional Republicans to extend a one-year cut in the payroll tax on Tuesday, accusing them of otherwise potentially violating their pledge not to raise taxes.
The president, speaking to a crowd in Manchester, N.H., ignored the presidential primary politics that are taking place throughout the Granite State, and kept his focus instead on the congressional GOP.
"This payroll tax is set to expire at the end of next month," Obama said in the speech. "And if we allow that to happen, if Congress refuses to act, then middle class families are going to get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time."
Congress authorized a yearlong payroll tax holiday as part of the package to extend the expiring Bush income tax cuts at the end of last year's Congress. The president wants to increase the size of the tax cut and extend it for another year; he included that in his American Jobs Act, which Congress failed to pass, and is now considering on a piecemeal basis.
Obama said he'd give Republicans a chance to make amends "in the spirit of Thanksgiving," and warned GOP lawmakers against being a "Grinch" by letting tax rates go up.
GOP leadership in the House has cited the payroll tax cut extension as a possible area of common ground between themselves and the president, though there's not unanimity within the GOP. Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R), a top Senate Republican, for instance, has said he favors letting that rate go back up.
Republicans also object to offsets for the payroll tax cut extension that would include a surtax on high earners, a revenue-raising measure that's been used by Democrats to attempt offsetting the cost of different jobs plan components.
The president sought to put the GOP on the spot, though, by making reference to the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" organized by antitax activist Grover Norquist, a frequent bogeyman of Democrats during the recent supercommittee negotiations. That pledge binds signatories to oppose a tax hike in any form.
Obama noted that "a lot of them have sworn an oath" to never raise taxes, but turned around to ask: "Are they really willing to break their oath…just to play politics?"