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Obama blasts 'Grinch' Republicans

Barack Obama has sought to steal the spotlight from Republican presidential candidates, challenging opposition politicians in Washington to stand by their anti-tax pledges on one big measure.

Speaking in politically-crucial New Hampshire, the state that is home to the nation's first presidential primary, the US president urged Congress to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut due to expire next month.

In effect, he dared Republicans - many of whom have signed anti-tax pledges - to vote against an extension, a move the White House says would lead to a 1,000-dollar tax increase on a family earning 50,000 dollars (£32,000) a year.

If politicians vote "no, your taxes go up. Yes, you get a tax cut", Mr Obama told the crowd. "Which way do you think Congress should vote?"

"Don't be a Grinch. Don't vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays," he said during his speech at a Manchester high school.

Much of Mr Obama's stop in Manchester was about trying to gain a foothold for his economic message in New Hampshire to balance the anti-Obama rhetoric from the Republican candidates swarming the state ahead of the January 10 presidential primary.

Mr Obama's trip came on the same day that the Republican contenders gathered in Washington for a foreign policy debate sure to focus on what they see as the president's failings.

In New Hampshire, he was greeted with a blunt message from Republican contender Mitt Romney, who bought campaign ads telling Mr Obama: "Your policies have failed."

The Republican field is not unanimous on whether to extend the payroll tax cut. Mr Romney has said he is not for raising taxes "anywhere" and former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich says that given the economic conditions "it's very hard to say no". And in Congress, Rep Michelle Bachmann voted against the payroll tax cut, but Rep Ron Paul supported it. Businessman Herman Cain and Texas governor Rick Perry oppose extending the cut.

Last year's cut in the 6.2% payroll tax, which raises money for Social Security, was accomplished with borrowed money. This time around, administration officials say the president may not insist on the cuts being paid for immediately. The two percentage-point cut in the 6.2% payroll tax gave 121 million families a tax reduction averaging 934 dollars (£600) last year at a total cost of about 120 billion dollars (£77 billion), according to the Tax Policy Centre.


From Belfast Telegraph