WASHINGTON — Labor leaders said Tuesday that President Obama remains committed to preserving tax cuts for middle class families and ensuring the wealthy pay more in taxes, outlining plans for a public campaign to pressure Republican lawmakers.
The heads of several labor unions and Democrat-leaning interest groups emerged from an hourlong meeting with Obama saying they were united with the president on how to avert the so-called ‘‘fiscal cliff’’ and prevent more financial hardships next year.
‘‘We are very, very committed to making sure that the middle class and workers don’t end up paying the tab for a party that we didn’t get to go to and the president is committed to that as well,’’ said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Obama was kicking off a series of meetings this week with labor officials, business executives and congressional leaders aimed at finding consensus on the fiscal cliff. On Tuesday, legislators returned to the Capitol to start their lame-duck session.
The week will include a tone-setting news conference Wednesday that will give the president the chance to frame his outlook on the year-ending lame duck session.
The president views his reelection as an affirmation of his belief that raising taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year is what voters want. House Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican, has expressed a willingness to raise revenues, but he remains opposed to boosting the tax rates, pointing instead to closing tax loopholes, lowering the rates, and fixing entitlement programs.
Both sides have voiced the potential for cooperation, but face a postelection confrontation over a series of expiring tax cuts approved during the George W. Bush presidency and tough, across-the-board spending cuts set to take place because lawmakers failed to reach a deal to reduce the federal debt.
Economists have warned the combination of the expiring tax cuts and reduced spending could hinder the economic recovery.
During Tuesday’s meeting, participants said the president reiterated his contention that the wealthy should pay more in taxes and that his views were vindicated by the election.
Ryan says election results came as a ‘bit of a shock’
WASHINGTON — The polling data and all the smart people watching the election gave Representative Paul Ryan an optimistic view on the night of last week’s election. When Mitt Romney lost, his running mate was surprised.
‘‘Going into Boston that day, we felt like we had a pretty darn good chance of winning,’’ Ryan told ABC News in an interview broadcast Tuesday. ‘‘So as you can imagine, it was a bit of a shock when we didn’t win, but that’s just the way these things go.’’
Ryan said President Obama deserves to be congratulated for having ‘‘a fantastic ground game.’’
‘‘He won fair and square,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘He got more votes, and that’s the way our system works, and so he ought to be congratulated for that.’’
Had he been at the top of the ticket, Ryan said, he would have run exactly the kind of campaign that Romney oversaw. Ryan said he and Romney ‘‘felt very good about the race we ran.’’
Ryan, who was reelected to an eighth term in the House, returned to the Capitol on Tuesday to resume his duties as House Budget Committee chairman.
‘‘There’s an upside to losing,’’ Ryan said, ‘‘which is a reconnection with my family.’’ He said he had already attended basketball and volleyball games in which his children — he has two sons and a daughter — were playing and looked forward to taking his daughter deer hunting.
‘‘Bad news: Dad lost. The good news: They get to stay at the same school,’’ he said. ‘‘That was the upside of all this.’’
Pelosi says she will reveal her plans on Wednesday
WASHINGTON — Nancy Pelosi said she will reveal Wednesday whether she’ll continue in her current position as minority leader or step down after her party failed to gain the 25 seats it needed to win the House majority.
Once a few undecided races are called, Democrats will gain less than half of that number. But Pelosi, who raised millions of dollars to put Democrats back in power, has declined to say whether she will relinquish or keep her leadership post, serve out the her two-year term, or retire.
She spoke while introducing some of the newly elected House Democrats at a news conference on Capitol Hill, where Congress was reconvening for a lame duck session.
Senate sends White House bill to hike veterans’ benefits
WASHINGTON — The Senate has sent the White House a bill to give nearly 4 million veterans and survivors a 1.7
percent increase in their monthly benefit payments next year.
The normally routine measure was delayed for weeks because an unidentified Republican senator objected to it.
That objection was lifted, without explanation, when Congress returned this week. The Senate then acted quickly to ensure that checks issued beginning in January reflect the adjustment for the higher cost of living.
Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, welcomed the financial boost.
Murray says veterans need the extra money to help make ends meet during a difficult economy.