WASHINGTON — The White House tried Monday to douse speculation that it might raise taxes on the middle class in violation of President Obama’s campaign promise, just a day after two of his top economic advisers left the door open to such a move to rein in spiraling deficits.
Mr. Obama told his economic team in a meeting at the White House that he intended to stand by his promise not to increase taxes on families making less than $250,000, aides said. He then sent his spokesman out to repeat that message in front of the television cameras.
“The president made a commitment in the campaign. He’s clear about that commitment, and he’s going to keep it,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.
The renewal of the promise came a day after Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Lawrence H. Summers, director of the National Economic Council, both refused to rule out tax increases on the middle class while discussing ways to pare the deficit. The two were speaking on separate Sunday morning talk shows, venues where administration officials are usually well prepared on the official line before appearing.
“It’s never a good idea to absolutely rule things out no matter what,” Mr. Summers said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. Mr. Geithner, on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” said, “We can’t make these judgments yet about exactly what it’s going to take” to tame the deficit.
Conservative critics interpreted those comments as laying the groundwork for trying to wriggle out of Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge.
“Obama should fire Geithner and Summers,” said Grover Norquist
, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a group that opposes tax increases. They “went on national television and implied the president lied his way into office and that he is open to raising taxes.”