CNN Senior White House Correspondent
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) - President Barack Obama declared Friday that his "number one priority" is preserving tax cuts for the middle class, and sharply denied that comments by his senior adviser David Axelrod suggest that his administration is about to cave in to Republicans who also want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
"That is the wrong interpretation because I haven't had a conversation with Democratic and Republican leaders," Obama said of a Huffington Post article suggesting that in advance of negotiations with lawmakers next week, the White House has calculated that giving in on tax cuts for the rich is the only way to get the middle class cuts extended too.
"Here's the right interpretation - I want to make sure that taxes don't go up for middle class families starting on January 1st," Obama said at a news conference at the conclusion of the G-20 Summit here. "That is my number one priority for those families and for our economy. I also believe that it would be fiscally irresponsible for us to permanently extend the high income tax cuts. I think that would be a mistake, particularly when we've got our Republican friends saying that their number 1 priority is making sure that we are dealing with our debt and our deficit."
Obama would not tip his hand on the discussions coming when Congress returns to work for a lame-duck session next week.
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