WASHINGTON – President Obama surrounded himself Wednesday with some wealthy campaign contributors to make another pitch for a higher tax rate on the country's biggest earners -- even suggesting President Reagan would have supported it, an argument Republicans dismissed as "pathetic."
The president is trying to garner support for the so-called Buffett Rule, which would set a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for Americans who earn more than $1 million annually.
"Everybody is doing their fair share," the president said in the White House speech. "The people who have joined me here today are extremely successful. They want to make sure the next generation of people coming up behind them has the same opportunity."
Republicans pounced on the president’s latest attempt to convince GOP lawmakers to support the Buffett rule ahead of a scheduled vote on the issue next week in the Republican-controlled House.
“President Ronald Reagan believed in freedom, opportunity and policies that get the government out of the way so the private sector can grow and create jobs,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “Trying to cloak the silly ‘Buffett tax’ proposal in his legacy is pathetic.”
Among those in the audience were Abigail Disney, president of the Daphne Foundation, who donated $4,600 to the president’s 2008 campaign efforts, and Whitney Tilson, managing partner of T2 Partners who has donated $5,000 to Obama in since June 2011, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The president also invoked the name of Reagan for the second straight day and the third time in weeks.
“I’m not the first president to call for this idea that everybody’s got to do their fair share,” he said. “If it will help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice, we could call it the ‘Reagan Rule’ instead of the 'Buffett rule.'"
Obama also said Reagan had said it was “crazy” that loopholes allowed millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than bus drivers.
“That wild-eyed socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan,” the president said. “He thought that in America the wealthiest should pay their fair share, and he said so.” Obama said. “I know that position might disqualify him from the Republican primaries these days, but what Ronald Reagan was calling for then is the same thing that we’re calling for now, a return to basic fairness and responsibility, everybody doing their part.”
The president also said Reagan thought “that in America the wealthiest should pay their fair share. And he said so. I know that position might disqualify him from the Republican primaries these days.”
The speech came at a time when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who opposes raising taxes on the wealthy, is a big step closer to claiming his party's nomination following the withdrawal of Rick Santorum from the race on Tuesday.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama's speech was yet another attempt by the administration to push for the Buffett tax rather than take action on bipartisan jobs and energy legislation stalled in the Democrat-led Senate.
“Sadly, an administration that promised it would focus on jobs is wasting yet another day on a political event that won’t take a single person off the unemployment line,” McConnell, R-Ky., said. “With millions out of work, gas at nearly $4 a gallon and the election still seven months away, Republicans are calling on the president to join us in support of the dozens of jobs and energy bills that have passed the House but are stalled in the Democrat-led Senate.
"We should be focused on jobs and energy legislation that can pass -- not tax-hike show-votes designed to fail.”