Despite Republican outcry over his fiscal cliff proposal, President Obama is continuing to push them to extend middle-class tax cuts. Today, he's taking his message to Hatfield, Pennsylvania, giving a speech at The Rodon Group Manufacturing Facility where products such as K'NEX and Angry Birds toys are made. The president is expected to urge Republicans to stop taking middle-class tax cuts hostage. We'll cover his speech as it happens, including posting live video when it is available.
9:05 AM PT: President Obama's speech was scheduled for 12:05 PM, but he's actually started a bit early.
9:04 AM PT: Obama talks about how much he enjoys getting out of D.C. and talking to real people in towns and cities across America. Someone shouts out "I love you." Obama: "I love you back."
9:07 AM PT: Obama says his agenda is to make the investments we need to grow the middle-class and rebuild our economy, while simultaneously reducing the deficit in a balanced fashion.
9:11 AM PT: Now Obama is putting his focus on middle-class taxes, reminding people that if Congress fails to act, everybody's taxes will go up starting on January 1, 2013. "That's a Scrooge Christmas," Obama says. It would hike taxes by $2,000 on a typical family of four, he says.
9:11 AM PT: Obama says that letting the tax cuts expire would damage the economy, but says there's good news: Congress can prevent the tax hikes by passing legislation that would extend tax cuts on all income below $250,000. That would go to everybody—even people who earn more than $250,000. Everybody would benefit, relative to current law.
9:12 AM PT: In addition to the material benefit, Obama says it would provide security to businesses because it would end uncertainty about tax rates. And, he says, it would set the stage to finish the rest of the fiscal deal that needs to be worked out.
9:12 AM PT: Obama says that his position "shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody." This was a big issue in the campaign, he says. "A clear majority of Americans" took his position, he says.
9:17 AM PT: Obama says now is the time to get the middle-class tax cut extension done. "Let's go ahead and take the fear out for the vast majority of American families." The Senate has already passed the extension. "If we can get just a few House Republicans on board," he says, we'll pass this bill. He takes out a pen—"I'm ready to sign it." He says he carries the pen around in case of an emergency—you know, if House Republicans get off their duff and pass the bill.
9:16 AM PT: Obama says he's counting on Americans to put pressure on Congress to extend the middle-class tax cuts. "I need you to remind members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to not get bogged down in partisan bickering. [...] I want you to call, send an email, to post on their Facebook wall." And he mentions the #My2k hashtag on Twitter.
9:20 AM PT: "I'm going to need folks like you, here in Hatfield and in Pennsylvania and across the country, to get this done."
9:18 AM PT: Here's the hostage line: "It's not acceptable to me and I don't think it's acceptable to you for just a handful of Republicans in Congress to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they don't want tax rates on upper income folks to go up. Alright? That doesn't make sense." Applause.
9:20 AM PT: And the president wraps up his speech by thanking everybody in the audience and saying "God bless America."
9:23 AM PT: That hostage line—that Republicans shouldn't hold the middle-class tax cuts hostage—is obviously the president's central message at this point. It's simple, it's easy to remember, and it's also right. This will be the framing of the debate and given the facts of the situation I don't see how Republicans can change it.
9:27 AM PT: Assuming that Republicans continue to withhold support for extending the middle-class tax cuts, two things seem likely to happen: one, they won't get any credit when the tax cuts finally pass; two, when the tax cuts do pass, they will be in a terrible position to demand any other concessions.