White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs signaled Thursday that the president is open to compromise on the Bush tax cuts, saying he expects a "big chunk" of the looming lame-duck session to be spent tackling that issue.
Congress adjourned before the election without taking action on the cuts, as Republicans insisted on extending them for all income levels and Democratic leaders pushed for a middle-class only extension. President Obama, reacting to his party's historic losses in Congress on Election Day, said Wednesday that he's "absolutely" willing to negotiate on the issue.
Gibbs said Thursday that the president still does not want to permanently extend the tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the year, for wealthy Americans. But that would leave open the possibility of a temporary extension for the wealthy, alongside a more permanent extension for the middle class.
"Obviously ... making those tax cuts for the upper end permanent is something that the president does not believe is a good idea," Gibbs said. "But this is something that I presume will take up a big chunk of the lame duck congressional session."
He also said the issue could dominate a meeting the president has invited congressional leaders from both parties to on Nov. 18.
"He's certainly willing to listen to both sides," Gibbs said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, after watching Republicans pick up six seats in the Senate, also suggested he's willing to budge on the tax cuts, though he said a permanent extension for everybody "won't happen."
"We're not ostriches with our head in the sand some place," he said. "We're willing to pull our head out and look around if they have some better ideas."