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President calls deal 'right thing to do' despite earlier promise

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Monday retreated on a campaign promise and infuriated congressional Democrats and liberals across the country by agreeing with Republicans to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Obama's deal would extend tax cuts for all income brackets, including those of more than $250,000, for two years, bowing to a GOP demand. In exchange, Republicans agreed in principle to extend jobless aid for 13 months as well as continue tax breaks for middle-class workers, child-care expenses and college costs.

The deal also includes a GOP-backed proposal on the estate tax and would reduce each worker's Social Security tax by 2 percent.

Obama made it clear he disagreed with the extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest earners and other provisions but said it was more important to settle the issue so that middle-class tax payers did not incur a tax increase Jan. 1.

"I have no doubt that everyone will find something in this compromise that they don't like. In fact, there are things in here that I don't like," he said. "For now, I believe this bipartisan plan is the right thing to do."

The White House now faces the daunting task of winning congressional support for what White House officials billed as a bipartisan compromise.

House Republicans signaled their agreement with the deal, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate GOP leader, said Obama's outline marked an acknowledgement by the White House that "a new direction is needed if we are to revive the economy and help put millions of Americans back to work."

But Democrats refused to jump onboard immediately and planned to discuss the tax deal at closed-door meetings today.

Obama quickly moved to quell any rebellion, summoning top Democrats to a White House session to explain the "framework" of the proposal. But the Democrats left the afternoon meeting without signing on to the agreement.

Despite additional tax breaks for middle-class households, "Democratic leaders are not completely comfortable with this," said one Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.


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