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LVRJ: Reid backs Obama fiscal approach; Heller mum

WASHINGTON - Sen. Harry Reid on Friday seconded President Barack Obama's insistence that federal deficit cuts must start with more taxes from people earning above $250,000. Nevada Republicans in Congress were either silent or dismissive of the call.

"On Tuesday, Americans from across the political spectrum made it clear that they want a balanced approach to tax policy that asks millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit more," said Reid, the Senate majority leader and top Democrat. "The sooner Republicans come to grips with this reality, the sooner we can forge an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff and prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans."

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., newly elected on Tuesday, was silent on the president's comments.

Other top Republicans including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said they rejected the Obama plan while saying they were open to other ideas to avoid economic calamity at the end of the year.

Fresh from his re-election victory, Obama at the White House renewed his campaign pledge that he would freeze tax rates for people with income of less than $250,000 but allow them to increase for wealthier Americans.

"The majority of Americans agree with my approach," he said, calling on Congress to pass such a bill during its lame-duck session.

The strategy would be part of an effort to avert the "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and automatic spending cuts due to take place in January, and that could total $800 billion. Both sides agree the economy would be crippled if an impasse persists, and Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House next week to negotiate.

The debate over what to do about tax cuts that were enacted in 2001 and 2003 during the Bush administration but set to expire at the end of this year is far from a new one, and has pitted Democrats and Republicans for the past several years.

In July, Heller was part of a united front of Republican senators who voted against a Democratic bill that would have preserved the Bush tax cuts for middle-income earners while letting them lapse for taxpayers with income above $250,000.

"Raising taxes will do nothing to create jobs in Nevada or this nation," Heller said at the time. "There is no question the tax code is unfair and needs an overhaul. However, in the short term, current tax rates should remain as they are."

In the House, Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., rejects Obama's strategy, a spokesman said Friday.

"While the president continues his calls for tax increases on 'millionaires and billionaires,' his proposed threshold for tax hikes is $250,000 which would adversely affect small businesses struggling to keep their doors open," spokesman Greg Lemon said.

"Congressman Heck does not believe we should be raising marginal tax rates on anyone regardless of income level," Lemon said. "He supports increased revenue collection through pro-growth tax reform in addition to getting serious about reducing spending to address our deficits and the debt."

Heck and Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., voted on Aug. 1 for a Republican bill that would extend the tax cuts to earners at all levels. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted against it.

An aide said Amodei was traveling and unavailable on Friday. Berkley did not comment.

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