By David Jackson, USA TODAY
Ex-president Bill Clinton is clarifying comments that appeared to (again) put him at odds with President Obama on tax cuts.
Clinton opposes the George W. Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans, but all of the Bush tax cuts may have to be extended temporarily because it will be hard for Congress to reach a long-term agreement right after the November election, a spokesman said.
All of the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year.
"In the (CNBC) interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election," said Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna.
McKenna also said that Clinton did not mean to suggest the nation is in a recession, but rather is still living with the effects of the past recession.
As we reported yesterday, Clinton told CNBC that Congress may well have to go ahead and extend all the Bush tax cuts temporarily.
"What I think we need to do is find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now, and then deal with what's necessary in the long-term debt-reduction plans as soon as they can, which presumably would be after the election," Clinton said.
Obama wants to extend the Bush tax cuts only for middle-class taxpayers. He wants to end them for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making $250,000, saying the wealthy should contribute more to reduce the federal debt.
Republicans, who want to extend all the Bush tax cuts, gleefully e-mailed and tweeted Clinton's comments.
In the CNBC interview, Clinton said that while extending tax cuts, Congress should pass the proposed "Buffett Rule," which would basically require millionaires to pay a surtax.
Clinton's latest comments come less than a week after the former president rankled some Obama supporters by praising the "sterling" business record of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Clinton later said his comments were twisted, and he was in no way endorsing Romney. Appearing with Obama at fundraisers on Monday, Clinton said Romney's economic policies would be "calamitous" for the nation and world.
Here is McKenna's full statement:
"Two questions have been raised regarding President Clinton's interview on CNBC today.
First, on extending the Bush tax cuts, as President Clinton has said many times before, he supported extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement, but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again. In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election.
Second, on the current condition of the economy, he said at the top of the interview that the main goal for those in Washington was "to keep the expansion going."
Later, in the interview, he said government spending levels were higher and revenues were lower than they would normally be because there was a recession and we're still living with the aftermath of it.
It's obvious since we've had 4.3 million new private sector jobs in the last 27 months that we're not in a recession, even though we'd all like growth to be higher."