WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders agreed Tuesday to work out their differences over taxes and vowed after their first formal meeting since the elections to work harder on a more cooperative approach. There was no consensus on whether to keep Bush era tax cuts in place for the middle class and wealthy alike.
"The American people did not vote for gridlock," Obama said following a meeting that ran far longer than the originally scheduled one hour. "They did not vote for unyielding partisanship. they're demanding cooperation and they're demanding progress and they'll hold all of us, and I mean all of us, accountable"
Back at the Capitol, Republican leaders offered a similar sentiment and applauded the president for what they said was his recognition that he needed to reach out to the GOP.
The president and the eight top congressional officials who met with him agreed to assemble a small working group of administration officials and lawmakers to find a compromise on the issue of whether to extend tax cuts. Obama said that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House budget director Jacob Lew would be part of the group.
Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to any tax increases when the tax rates set in 2001 and 2003 expire at the end of the year. Obama has said he would oppose a permanent extension of the tax cuts for taxpayers earning more than $200,000 as individuals and $250,000 as couples.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said after the meeting that the GOP remains "100 percent" against any tax increases and said they oppose any policy of leaving tax cuts in place for middle class people while raising rates for the wealthy.
House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner called it a "nice meeting," but said the hard work of achieving bipartisan agreement still lies ahead.