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Obama supports Olympic medal tax reprieve

By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — President Obama supports an effort in Congress to waive taxes on honoraria earned by U.S. athletes who earn Olympic medals in London, the White House said Monday.

“The president believes that we should support efforts … to ensure that we are doing everything we can to honor and support our Olympic athletes who have volunteered to represent our nation at the Olympic Games,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Obama, of course, is campaigning on a promise to allow lower tax rates for the wealthiest Americans to lapse at year’s end, defying conventional wisdom that you don’t support a tax increase in an election year.

It seems that in an Olympic year, however, he won’t risk blocking the effort to give U.S. athletes a break.

Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., introduced legislation last week that would amend the tax code to make an exception for Olympic medals and bonuses, a bill that quickly gained co-sponsors from both parties. If passed, it would apply to prizes and awards won this year.

“If it were to get to his desk, he would support it,” Carney promised.

The president has been paying some attention to the games in London, occasionally tweeting congratulations to American athletes. Last week, he also spoke by phone from Air Force One with each of the “Fab Five” women’s gymnasts who scored the first gold medal for the United States in the event since 1996.

First lady Michelle Obama led the U.S. delegation to London for the opening ceremonies, and cheered on American athletes at several events in the early days of competition.

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