Published: Sep 08, 2010 11:03 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 08, 2010 6:36 PM EDT

CLEVELAND (AP) - President Barack Obama strongly defended his opposition to extending Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans on Wednesday and delivered a searing attack on Republicans and their House leader for advocating "the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place."

Obama said the struggling U.S. economy can't afford to spend $700 billion to keep lower tax rates in place for the nation's highest earners despite a call by House Minority Leader John Boehner and other GOP leaders to do just that.

Speaking in the same city where Boehner, an Ohio Republican, recently ridiculed Obama's economic stewardship, Obama said Boehner's policies amount to no more than "cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations."

Obama's comments came as the administration rolled out new proposals designed to re-ignite a sputtering recovery, including new tax breaks for businesses and $50 billion for U.S. roads, rails and airports.

"Let me be clear to Mr. Boehner and everyone else. We should not hold middle class tax cuts hostage any longer," the president said. The administration "is ready this week to give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or less," he said.

The sweeping series of Bush tax cuts expires at the end of this year unless Congress renews them. Obama wants to extend the tax cuts except for individuals making over $200,000 a year or families earning over $250,000.