By MATTHEW DALY
WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Vice President Joe Biden went on a Costco shopping spree Thursday and called for Congress to extend middle-class tax cuts as part of a deal to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff" that could jolt the economy back into recession.
Biden, who flashed a store membership card as he entered the city's first Costco on its opening day, said consumer confidence is growing â¿¿ as demonstrated by the huge crowd at the gleaming new store in Northeast Washington.
"The last thing we need to do is dash that" confidence by imposing a tax increase of about $2,200 for a typical middle-class family, Biden said. Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire Jan. 1, the same time as across-the-board spending cuts are scheduled to take effect. The combination of tax hikes and spending cuts could spike unemployment and bring on a new recession.
Biden and President Barack Obama have pressed Congress to extend middle-class tax cuts while raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while congressional Republicans have pushed to extend cuts for all taxpayers.
Biden said Congress should act on the middle-class tax cuts before Christmas to spur consumer confidence, and then fight later over tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000 a year.
"We have a lot we have to settle, but there's one thing we should all agree on and that's the middle-class tax cut should be made permanent. I think it's important Congress acts now, I mean right now," Biden said at an impromptu news conference at the store, where he was surrounded by shoppers and employees eager to shake hands, take photos and even hug the vice president.
"I'm looking for pies," Biden announced as he began shopping, helped by Costco employee Ivey Stewart, who was steering his shopping cart around the store.