Obama 'Open to New Ideas,' but Rich Must Pay More
President Barack Obama said Friday he was "open to new ideas" in efforts to resolve the fiscal crisis, but he insisted that raising taxes for the wealthy must be part of any deal.
"This was a central question during the election," Obama said. "The majority of Americans agree with my approach."
At the Capitol, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said he remains unwilling to raise tax rates on upper-income earners. But he left open the possibility of balancing spending cuts with new revenue that could be achieved by revising the tax code to lower rates and eliminate some tax breaks.
Obama spoke at the White House in front of invited guests who applauded his comments, but Wall Street didn't like what it heard. Stocks surrendered some earlier gains.
(Read More: Market Pares Gains on Obama Remarks)
It was Obama's most detailed comments on trying to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" since he won re-election Tuesday.
He also invited business and congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week for talks on how to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
Obama will hold a news conference on Wednesday and will meet with congressional leaders at the White House next Friday about the fiscal cliff, administration officials said.
Obama urged Congress to act, including passing a bill that would prevent Bush-era tax cuts from expiring for all but the wealthiest Americans.
"I'm open to compromise. I'm open to new ideas," Obama said. "But I refuse to accept any approach that isn't balanced. I'm not going to ask students and seniors and middle class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me making over $250,000 aren't asked to pay a dime more in taxes."
He said the plan must spur jobs and economic growth. And while the talks are under way, he called for extending the middle class tax cuts now.
Boehner said he was "hopeful" that Republicans and the Obama administration can resolve the fiscal crisis.
"This is an opportunity for the president to lead," the Ohio Republican told reporters.
"I'm proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us," Boehner said.
He said it's possible for Obama to propose legislation that can pass both chambers of Congress.
"I think we both understand that trying to find a way for our country to avert the fiscal cliff is important for our country, and I'm hopeful that productive conversations will begin soon so we can forge an agreement that can pass the Congress," Boehner said.
Boehner called for tax and entitlement reforms, but still opposed returning to higher tax rates for the richest Americans.
"Everything on the revenue side and the spending side has to be looked at," said Boehner.
Obama said he was encouraged by that, and said he'd like to hear more.
Boehner declined to provide details of what approach he expects to take. "I don't want to limit the options that would be available to me, or limit the options that might be available to the White House. There are a lot of ways to get there and I don't want to preclude anyone who might have a good idea about how we move forward. But it's clear, it's clear we've got to fix our broken tax system and we've got to fix our spending problem," he said.
Obama, who defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Tuesday in a race in which the two candidates offered different visions for jump-starting the sluggish economy, did not put forward a new or specific plan.
His opening move in what is expected to be a tense negotiation to avert the cliff was telegraphed Thursday by a top adviser, David Plouffe, who claimed a mandate from Tuesday's election victory to raise taxes on the wealthy.
Analysts have said that if left unaddressed, the abrupt fiscal tightening would knock the economy back into recession.
On Wednesday, Boehner offered to pursue a deal with Obama that will include higher taxes "under the right conditions" to help reduce the nation's staggering debt and put its finances in order.
Congressional Republicans have already begun to stake out their position on ways to spare the already modest economic recovery from a fiscal shock.
Boehner said Wednesday that House Republicans want Obama "to make good on a balanced approach" that would including spending cuts and address government social benefit programs.
(Read More: Boehner Extends Olive Branch on 'Fiscal Cliff')
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that allowing income tax rates to rise for wealthy Americans and maintaining rates for the less affluent would not hurt U.S. economic growth much in 2013.
The CBO said the tax hikes for the wealthy would reduce job growth by around 200,000 jobs, much less than the 700,000 in job losses claimed by Boehner.
(Read More: Why Tax Hike for Wealthy Won't Kill Growth: CBO)
The president's advisers told reporters earlier on Thursday that dealing with the fiscal cliff would be an immediate priority.
"One of the messages that was sent by the American people throughout this campaign is ... they clearly chose the president's view of making sure that the wealthiest Americans are asked to do a little bit more in the context of reducing our deficit in a balanced way," Plouffe said.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.