Newly re-elected President Barack Obama has said the wealthy must pay more taxes under any political settlement to avert a looming budget crisis. He said Congress must act against the so-called fiscal cliff, a package of tax rises and spending cuts due early next year. But in a duelling news conference, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said tax rises would not be acceptable.
Budget analysts warn the US will tip into recession unless a deal is struck. Mr Obama has repeatedly called for the affluent to pay more, but such a plan is anathema to Republicans. The fiscal cliff would see the expiry of George W Bush-era tax cuts at the end of 2012, combined with automatic, across-the-board reductions to military and domestic spending.
'Open to compromise'
In the East Room of the White House on Friday, Mr Obama said: "We can't just cut our way to prosperity. If we're serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue. And that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes." The Democratic president continued: "I want to be clear. I'm not wedded to every detail of my plan. I'm open to compromise. I'm open to new ideas... but I refuse to accept any approach that isn't balanced."
He repeated his oft-stated call for tax rises on earnings over $250,000 (£157,000), while urging Congress to extend existing rates for 98% of taxpayers. "This was a central question during the election," said Mr Obama. "It was debated over and over again. On Tuesday night, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach." He also invited Democratic and Republican leaders to the White House next week to discuss how to move forward. A White House spokesman said afterwards the president would veto any bill extending tax cuts for those making more than $250,000.