Pelosi Says Budget Deal Should Raise Taxes on Top Earners

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said any budget agreement to avert the so-called fiscal cliff must raise tax rates on the highest earners, a step backed by President Barack Obama.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, couldn’t accept any budget deal that doesn’t increase tax rates on the wealthy, she said in an interview broadcast yesterday on ABC television’s “This Week.” She said she’s optimistic that an agreement can be reached, possibly by mid-December, and that eliminating tax loopholes won’t raise enough revenue on their own.

“Just to close loopholes is far too little money,” Pelosi said in the interview. “If it’s going to bring in revenue, the president has been very clear that the higher-income people have to pay their fair share.”

Obama and Congress are negotiating now to prevent more than $600 billion of automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to start taking effect in January, which would deal a fresh blow to the still-struggling U.S. economy. Negotiators are urgently working to keep that from happening, Pelosi said.

Fiscal Negotiators See Optimism With Hurdles Remaining

“The spirit at the table was one of ‘everybody wants to make the best effort to get this done,’” she said. “Hopefully that is possible; hopefully it is possible by the middle of December so the confidence of the markets, and most importantly the confidence of the consumers, returns to infuse our -- our economy with -- with demand, which creates jobs.”

Obama’s Confidence

Obama earlier yesterday expressed confidence that he and Congress would reach an agreement.

“I am confident we can get our fiscal situation dealt with,” the president told reporters during a news conference in Bangkok, where he began a three-nation trip.

He plans a campaign-style push to build support for his position. After meeting with corporate executives and labor leaders last week, Obama spoke by telephone over the weekend with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett, Apple Inc. (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, Boeing Inc. (BA) CEO Jim McNerney and Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) CEO Craig Jelinek, according to a White House official.

David Plouffe, a senior adviser to Obama, sent an e-mail to a White House message list urging subscribers “to make a statement of your own” on cutting spending and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Rallying Support

“It’s on you to add your voice and bring your friends and neighbors into the debate,” Plouffe wrote, using a tactic similar to one from Obama’s successful re-election campaign.

Obama also plans to hold events outside of Washington to rally the public.

Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican on the tax- writing House Ways and Means Committee, stopped short of ruling out a tax increase, though he rejected Obama’s proposal to let tax cuts on the wealthy lapse, saying that it wouldn’t raise enough revenue.

“We’d be happy to look at that if it solved the problem,” Price said yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “The problem is it doesn’t solve the problem.”

Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who is assistant majority leader, said on the CNN program that he senses a greater willingness by Republicans to work out a deal.

“We’re not going to solve this by asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share, but it will be part of the solution,” Durbin said. “And what I hear from the Republican side is ‘What is the rest of the solution?’ That is the beginning of a negotiation.”

To contact the reporters on this story: William Selway in Washington at wselway@bloomberg.net; Andrew Zajac in Washington at azajac@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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