WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is launching a push to extend tax cuts for the middle class, as he seeks to shift the election-year economic debate from the dismal jobs market to assertions that Republican rival Mitt Romney protects the rich.
Obama, in an address from the White House later Monday, will call on Congress to pass a one-year extension of tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year.
The president's appeal to middle-class voters is aimed at drawing a contrast with Romney and congressional Republicans. The House GOP is expected to make its own push this month for an extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year, including reductions on wealthier income earners.
Obama opposes extending the tax cuts for Americans with higher incomes, while Romney has said he supports extending the expiring cuts for all income earners.
The contours of the tax debate are largely the same as they were when the cuts were due to expire at the end of 2010. While Obama opposed an extension for higher income earners then as well, he ultimately agreed to full two-year extension, in part to win concessions for other legislation.
The president's shift to the tax debate follows Friday's lackluster jobs report showing the nation's unemployment rate stuck at 8.2 percent. And it comes as Democrats embark on a coordinated attack on Romney, intensifying calls for him to explain offshore bank accounts and release several years of tax returns.
The strategy is aimed at portraying Romney, whose personal wealth could exceed $250 million, as disconnected from middle-class voters.
"We have to continue to grow our economy. We have to grow it from the middle class out," Robert Gibbs, an Obama campaign adviser, said Monday in an interview on NBC's "Today" show. "But for millionaires and billionaires, they don't need a tax cut," he added.