By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt
VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (Reuters) – President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that his March 9 budget proposal to the U.S. Congress will include some higher taxes, including on billionaires, but will not violate his pledge not to raise rates on Americans making less than $400,000 a year.
“On March the 9th, I’m going to lay down in detail every single thing, every tax that’s out there that I’m proposing, and no one … making less than $400,000 is going to pay a penny more in taxes,” Biden told an audience in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“I want to make it clear. I’m gonna raise some taxes,” the Democratic president added, before suggesting that “billionaires” would be called upon to pay more.
Biden, under pressure from Republicans who are threatening not to raise the U.S. debt limit unless he agrees to sharp spending cuts, has vowed to cut the deficit by $2 trillion over 10 years in the upcoming budget proposal.
During the 2020 campaign, Biden pledged not to increase taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year.
He has challenged Republicans to release their own proposals and to negotiate over those plans rather than over whether the country should raise the debt ceiling and pay its existing bills, citing possible damage to the economy from an unprecedented U.S. default.
Biden’s remarks came in a state that Democrats regard as politically competitive. It was the latest in a series of campaign-style events designed to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans in the weeks before Biden is expected to announce his 2024 re-election bid.
While Republican lawmakers have not yet fully outlined or voted on their spending plans for the coming fiscal year, the White House has nonetheless seized on some past statements and proposals by members of Congress as evidence that they are hell-bent on unraveling federal healthcare and old-age programs popular with voters.
Republicans control the House of Representatives while Democrats control the Senate.
Tuesday’s event focused on government health insurance programs under Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare. Biden has vowed to strengthen support for those and other federal programs.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, was invited to greet Biden on the tarmac outside Air Force One prior to the event and declined, according to a person familiar with the matter.
On Tuesday, Youngkin criticized Biden in a statement for visiting Virginia but not Ohio, the site of a train derailment and toxic spill that has become a political flashpoint.
Youngkin, who has worked to raise his political profile outside of Virginia, is sometimes mentioned as a possible candidate for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination but has not launched a campaign.
Democrats were disappointed by Youngkin’s 2021 victory over former Governor Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s governor’s race as well successes by other Republican office-seekers in a state Biden won in 2020 by 10 percentage points.
(This story has been refiled to remove duplicated phrase “taxes on” in paragraph 5)
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Leslie Adler)