REDFORD, Mich. — President Obama warned Monday that he ‘‘won’t compromise’’ on his demands that the wealthiest Americans pay higher tax rates, digging in on the chief sticking point between the White House and Republicans as they seek a way to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.
Obama brought his pressure-Congress campaign to the heart of industrial America, ripping lines from his own reelection bid as the nation inched closer to a perilous economic cliff.
In a campaign-style trip to Michigan, the president said the country could not afford a ‘‘manufactured’’ crisis and pledged to cheering auto workers that he would fight to extend tax cuts for the middle class before they expire at year’s end.
‘‘That’s a hit you can’t afford to take,’’ Obama declared.
Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met privately at the White House on Sunday. Although neither side would characterize the meeting, the mere fact that the two leaders talked face-to-face was seen as progress in negotiations to avoid a series of year-end tax hikes and spending cuts.
Republicans have long opposed Obama’s call for higher tax rates on the wealthy, but some GOP lawmakers are suggesting the party relent in order to win concessions from the president on changes to programs such as Medicare. Still, Boehner’s office indicated Monday that the speaker was not ready to take that step.
‘‘The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer,’’ said Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman. He was referring to a GOP plan that offered $800 billion in new revenue over the next decade through reducing or eliminating unspecified tax breaks on upper-income earners, but not by raising tax rates.
Boehner’s office said it was continuing to wait for the president to identify the spending cuts he is willing to make.
In Michigan, Obama never directly criticized Republicans and kept his focus more broadly on the need for Congress to act quickly to prevent a tax increase for middle-class families.
During his last trip outside Washington — to a toy factory in Pennsylvania on Nov. 30 — the president likened raising taxes on the middle class to a ‘‘lump of coal’’ for Christmas, a ‘‘Scrooge Christmas.’’
Obama saved his most pointed criticism for closely watched measures in Michigan’s Legislature that would prevent requiring nonunion employees to financially support unions at their workplace. Drawing cheers, the president said the right-to-work legislation was more about politics than economics. ‘‘What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money,’’ Obama said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking to reporters traveling with Obama, reiterated that there could be no deal on the fiscal cliff without tax-rate increases on the wealthiest Americans. But he said the president remains optimistic that both sides can reach an agreement.
‘‘He’s eager to get a deal and he believes a deal is possible,’’ Carney said.