Obama seeks votes with tax cut bid

President Barack Obama has told Americans he wants Congress to extend tax cuts for the country's middle class while letting them rise on high-income earners.

As he attempts to turn voters' attention from stagnant unemployment numbers - now standing at 8.2% - and limp economic recovery, Mr Obama spoke at the White House as he made an opening campaign pitch for continuing middle class tax relief.

He also said continuing tax cuts for high-income earners was a major driver of the sky-rocketing US federal budget deficit.

But extending the tax cuts for the middle class, the president said, would help the 98% of the American people who do not make more than 250,000 dollars (£160,000). Absence of the extension, he said, "would be an incredible drag on the economy".

The White House is again raising the tax issue with full knowledge that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will not accept such a move unless it also includes extending tax cuts for high-income earners.

That is a symptom of the legislative and political gridlock consuming Washington in advance of the November elections. Another example is the plan in the House to vote to remove Mr Obama's healthcare overhaul from the books. That will be blocked by the Democratic-controlled Senate and would be vetoed by Mr Obama even if it passed both houses in Congress.

A one-year across-the-board tax cut - which would extend the lower rates instituted under former president George W Bush - expires at the end of the year. The White House official said Mr Obama will call for yet another one-year extension of tax cuts but only for people making less than 250,000 dollars a year.

The Romney campaign responded quickly. "President Obama's announcement this morning will mean a tax increase for millions of families, job creators, and small businesses," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

An official at Mr Obama's re-election campaign said it will promote the president's economic agenda in a series of events this week in battleground states, including New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama's campaign and the Democratic Party raised 71 million dollars (£45 million) in June, well below the 106 million dollars (£68 million) hauled in by Mr Romney and the Republican Party during the same period. It was the second straight month that Mr Romney has raised more money than Mr Obama. Obama officials have warned the fundraising deficit could harm the president's chances of winning re-election.