Over the weekend the Senate blocked legislation that would have extended the Bush tax cuts to middle income taxpayers. President Obama reportedly called the vote very disappointing.
"It makes no sense to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage to permanent tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans," he added.
In a rare weekend session that followed days of stormy debate, the 100-member Senate on Saturday fell short of the 60 votes necessary to approve the Democratic proposal of renewing low tax rates only for individuals earning up to 200,000 dollars and for families with 250,000 dollars or less of income.
The measure, backed by the White House, would have let rates on higher earners rise at the beginning of next year to where they were before cuts enacted by former president George W. Bush's administration in 2001 and 2003.
Republicans blocked the legislation on a procedural vote, complaining the measure failed to extend low tax rates for wealthier Americans. They want all of the tax cuts -- including those that directly benefit the top earners -- to be extended instead.
They also rejected another Democratic proposal to extend the tax cuts for annual incomes of up to one million dollars. A handful of Democrats voted against the two measures.
"With so much at stake, today's votes cannot be the end of the discussion," Obama said in a statement.