Obama approaches 'fiscal cliff' days after victory, says Americans agree with approach on deficit

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama, laying down his marker for grueling budget and tax negotiations, said Friday he won't accept any approach to deficit reduction that doesn't ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes.

"This was a central question during the election," Obama said in his first postelection comments on the economy. "The majority of Americans agree with my approach."

The president, speaking before a group of middle class Americans in the White House East Room, said he wasn't wedded to every detail of the plans he outlined during the election, adding, "I'm open to compromise." But he offered no indication that he was willing to back down on his insistence that the wealthy pay more.

Obama said he had invited congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week to start negotiations on averting the "fiscal cliff" tax increases and automatic spending cuts due to hit in January that both parties agree could cripple the economy.

Republicans, as they did throughout the past four years, say raising tax rates on wealthier Americans is a non-starter. Obama has given in to them on the matter before, but his aides believe he has earned a mandate on the issue through his re-election victory.

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