President Barack Obama smiles as he returns to the White House in Washington, Sunday, July 8, 2012, from Camp David, Md. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is launching a push to extend tax cuts for the middle class, as he seeks to shift the election-year economic debate away from the dismal jobs market and toward the issue of tax fairness.
Obama, in an address from the White House Monday, will call on Congress to pass a one-year extension of tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year, said senior campaign aide Robert Gibbs.
The president's appeal to middle-class voters is aimed at drawing a contrast with Republican rival Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans. The House GOP is expected to make its own push this month for an extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year, including reductions on wealthier income earners. Obama opposes extending the tax cuts for higher income earners.
Obama's re-election campaign also plans to use Washington's tax debate to ramp up its criticism of Romney. The campaign and its Democratic allies have slammed the presumptive GOP nominee for not releasing several years of tax returns and for having some of his money in offshore bank accounts.
The strategy is aimed at portraying Romney, whose personal wealth could exceed $250 million, as disconnected from middle-class voters.
"We have to continue to grow our economy. We have to grow it from the middle class out," Gibbs said Monday in an interview on NBC's "Today" show. "But for millionaires and billionaires, they don't need a tax cut," he added.
Gibbs said, "We're going to have to make some tough choices in this country. We can't continue to spend the kind of money that was spent in the last decade.".
Obama is expected to promote his tax policy at a series of events this week in battleground states, including New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada.
The president's shift to the tax debate follows Friday's lackluster jobs report showing the nation's unemployment rate stuck at 8.2 percent.
The Bush-era tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year unless Congress votes to extend them. Economists worry that across-the-board tax increases, along with automatic spending cuts also scheduled to take hold at year's end, could be a blow to the shaky U.S. economy.