Obama Defends Tax Deal, Says Best for the Nation

By Ben Feller | December 7, 2010 | 2:45 PM EST

President Barack Obama makes a opening statement during a news conference in the White House briefing room in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Washington (AP) - Facing a Democratic rebellion, President Barack Obama on Tuesday staunchly defended his decision to compromise with Republicans and temporarily extend about-to-expire tax cuts for all Americans.

"There are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight," the president said at a White House news conference a day after the deal was announced. "And I understand the desire for a fight. I'm sympathetic to that."

But, he said, a long political battle "would be a bad deal for the economy. And it would be a bad deal for the American people."

Still, he promised a fight during 2012, when the tax cuts would expire again, to make the point that he opposes the Republican position that high-income earners should get the extension, too.

Obama called "tax cuts for the wealthy" the Republicans' "holy grail."

"It seems to be their economic doctrine," Obama added, previewing a likely argument during his expected re-election race in 2012 when tax cuts are all but certain to be a major issue.

With the compromise agreement with Republicans - opposed by many Democrats in Congress - the president gave up a key goal to let Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans expire. But he said the deal would stop taxes from rising for middle class Americans, "which is what I promised."