WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday there is "no daylight" between President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton regarding the Bush-era tax cuts, despite Republicans' claim that Clinton agrees with them on extending the cuts for everyone, including the rich.
Clinton caused a stir on Tuesday when, during an interview on CNBC, he appeared to endorse the idea of temporarily extending all of the Bush tax cuts. The position would put him out of step with Obama and Hill Democrats, who are pushing for permanently extending the middle-class cuts while letting the upper-class cuts expire at the end of the year.
A Clinton spokesman later walked back the former president's comments and said he doesn't support cuts for the wealthy. Still, Republicans have been hailing him as an ally.
Carney pushed back on the idea that Republicans have anything to celebrate.
"The spokesman for President Clinton put out a statement that clarified what President Clinton was saying and made abundantly clear that there's no daylight between President Clinton and President Obama when it comes to ... the need to extend the tax cuts for middle-class Americans and to not extend tax cuts for those making over $250,000," Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
"That's the president's position ... and that's the position that President Clinton has as well," he said.
Carney also rejected GOP claims that Larry Summers supports extending all of the cuts. Summers, a former top economic adviser to Obama and Clinton, said Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the real risk to the economy "is on the side of slow down," which means "we've got to make sure that we don't take gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year.”
Republicans have taken his comments to mean he supports temporarily extending all of the cuts. But Carney flatly dismissed that view.
"I don't believe that's what Larry Summers said," he said.
Summers also issued a statement to clarify that he agrees with Obama on the matter.
"I fully support President Obama's position on tax cuts," he said. "I have often said and continue to believe that promoting demand is the most critical short run priority for the American economy. Extending the high income tax cut does little for demand and poses substantial problems of fairness and fiscal prudence."
Nonetheless, House Republican leaders spent Wednesday morning invoking Clinton's and Summers' names in making their case for extending all of the cuts.
"Extending all of the current tax rates for at least a year is really important if we're going to help job creators gain a little more confidence and put Americans back to work," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said during a press conference. "Even Bill Clinton came out for it, before he was against it. And then, you know, Larry Summers, the president’s former economic adviser, this morning came out in favor of this."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) chimed in as well. “Even folks on the other side of the aisle and part of the president's team are now coming to the realization that we have to do everything we can to start growing this economy," he said. "That’s why all of us are saying, 'Let’s say it to the American people once and for all: We're not going to allow tax rates to go up on anybody.'"
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even made an appearance at the House GOP event to name-drop Clinton and Summers. He pointed out that the growth rate is slower now than it was in December 2010, when he was in the midst of negotiations with the White House over extending the Bush-era tax rates. The argument that Obama made at that time was that the economy needed it, McConnell said.
"As the speaker indicated, coupling that with Bill Clinton's remarks and then Larry Summers' remarks, it's pretty obvious that the economy needs the certainty of the extension of the current tax rates for at least a year," McConnell said.