WASHINGTON (November 14, 2012)--President Barack Obama said Wednesday the economy cannot afford a tax increase on all Americans and called on congressional Republicans to support an extension of existing tax rates for households earning $250,000 or less.
Mr. Obama said he is confident that he and Congress can reach an agreement that avoids a so-called "fiscal cliff" on Jan. 1, when all tax rates would revert to Clinton-era levels and a series of deep spending cuts kick in.
Mr. Obama addressed the fiscal cliff at the opening of a press conference Wednesday in the White House.
Mr. Obama says he will not agree to any budget deal that extends current tax rates for the wealthiest taxpayers, saying their rates should rise to help raise revenue.
He says voters in the election validated his stand.
Congressional Republicans have said they would be willing to include new tax revenue in a deficit reduction deal, but they have been adamant that the tax rates themselves must not increase.
Mr. Obama also said Wednesday says he wants to begin a national "conversation" on climate change.
Mr. Obama said his administration has taken steps to combat global warming, such as sharply increasing fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.
But he said, "We haven't done as much as we need to" on global warming, which was virtually ignored during the presidential campaign until Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast.
Mr. Obama did not outline specific legislation, but said he would talk with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find ways to make short-term progress to reduce carbon emissions.
After that, he said the country should begin long-term efforts "to make sure that this is not something we're passing on to future generations."
The president was also questioned about the scandal surrounding the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus.
Mr. Obama said he has no evidence that the scandal had a negative impact on national security.
In his first comments on the scandal, Mr. Obama said that from what he's seen, no classified information was disclosed that would harm national security.
The president spoke five days after Petraeus resigned as head of the Central Intelligence Agency after disclosing he had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Mr. Obama says he's withholding judgment on the timing of the revelations that Petraeus was under investigation.
Officials have said that Mr. Obama was not told about the investigation until after the election.
He said he has "a lot of confidence generally" in the FBI, which is conducting the inquiry.