A conciliatory White House said on Thursday it was willing to negotiate with Republicans on tax cut extensions, but Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell took a hard line against compromises with President Barack Obama in a new Congress.
In the first possible policy shift since Democrats suffered heavy election losses two days ago, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs signaled Obama was open to talks on a temporary extension for the wealthy of Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year.
The fight over tax cuts looms as one of the biggest clashes since the election between Obama and Republicans, who will control the House of Representatives in the new Congress that convenes in January.
Obama invited top leaders from both parties to a meeting and a dinner at the White House on November 18, and he said the tax cuts will top the agenda.
Obama has insisted on keeping the tax cuts for families making less than $250,000, but let them expire for wealthier Americans, while Republicans want them extended for all income levels. If no agreement is reached, all Americans will see higher tax rates on January 1.
But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president was willing to discuss keeping all lower tax rates, at least temporarily.