(CBS News/WBEN) President Obama on Monday announcing push to extend the so-called Bush-era tax cuts for low and middle-income Americans, but he will continue to fight for the cuts to expire on Jan. 1 for people earning more than $250,000.
Obama today urged lawmakers to extend the cuts for those making less than that amount, instead of holding them "hostage," as he put it, to the continuing debate over extending tax cuts for wealthier Americans. As he spoke at the White House, he was flanked by a dozen people the White House said would benefit from the extension of the cut for middle-class Americans.
Republicans are rejecting his call for a partial extension. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell says, "No one should see an income tax hike next year."
Mitt Romney also supports extending the cuts for all income earners. A spokeswoman for Romney's campaign says Obama's plan to let the cuts expire for the highest earners amounts to a "massive tax increase."
Democrats see the tax debate as part of a larger coordinated attack on Romney -- including calls for him to explain offshore bank accounts and release several years of tax returns.
Romney's people say the Democratic attacks on Romney's wealth are an "unfounded character assault."
The White House says if Congress sends him a bill to extend tax cuts for everyone -- even households making more than $250,000 a year -- President Obama wouldn't sign it.
In reaction, Congresswoman Kathy Hochul says she's spoken with Western New Yorkers who want that certainty in their incomes.
"For the average family in this district, that $2,600 based on 2010 figures. That's a tank of gas a week. That's a lot of money. That's two months worth of mortgage payments for some people," says Hochul, the incumbent Democrat in the race for the new 27th congressional district.
Her opponent, Republican challenger Chris Collins, says the economy can't afford any tax increases -- even on the highest earners, including small business owners who are taxed at individual rates.
"I think that's common sense, and I continue to be disappointed in President Obama, as well as Representative Hochul, for wanting to raise taxes," Collins says.
Collins also says the economy needs jobs, and raising taxes on the job creators is going to prevent businesses from adding to their payrolls.
Hochul also indicated she disagreed with the income figure in the Obama proposal, believing the tax cuts should end for those earning a dollar figure higher than $250,000. She suggested it should be $500,000 or even higher, saying she's concerned about how it could affect small businesses in Western New York.
On Sunday, Robert Gibbs, a senior Obama campaign official, said the president was "100 percent committed" to allowing some Bush-era tax cuts to expire, reports CBSNews.com's Leigh Ann Caldwell.
Gibbs also hinted at the announcement Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
The series of tax cuts originally passed in 2001 and 2003 during George W. Bush's presidency, and later extended, are set to expire at the end of this year, explains Caldwell. In 2010, President Obama agreed to a two-year extension, but Gibbs gave on Sunday the first insight into the campaign's plan to block another extension for couples making more than $250,000.
"We should protect the tax cuts for the middle-class, and we should let tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires expire," Gibbs told host Candy Crowley. "We have tried these different philosophies before; we know what tax breaks and tax cuts for the wealthy and [taking] financial regulations off of Wall Street mean. They mean economic calamity, they mean what we are dealing with now, versus a vision where we add jobs and build out the middle-class.
"Let's make some progress on our spending by doing away with tax cuts for people who quite frankly don't need them . . . and have them pay their fair share."
CBS Radio News White House correspondent Mark Knoller says the Obama campaign will try to amplify the President's message on middle class tax cuts with a series of campaign trail events in battleground states this week.
The events will include public discussions in Concord, New Hampshire, Las Vegas, Nevada, Aspen, Colorado and Tampa, Florida.