Obama urges action as fiscal cliff deadline approaches
Published Friday, December 28, 2012 7:27PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 28, 2012 11:17PM EST
As lawmakers made last-ditch efforts to avoid an impending mix of middle class tax increases and spending cuts scheduled for the new year, U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday that he was prepared to bring to the floor “a basic package for an up-or-down vote” if a deal cannot be reached.
Speaking briefly, Obama said he had a “good and constructive discussion” when he met with congressional leaders Friday, as lawmakers attempted to reach an agreement that has eluded them for months.
Obama told reporters Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were continuing meeting “as we speak” to hammer out a deal.
If an agreement is not reached in time, Obama said he has asked Reid to put a bill on the floor that would limit taxes on the middle class, extend unemployment benefits and “lay the groundwork” for future cooperation on economic growth and deficit reduction.
Americans have been anticipating for months an economic downturn that could send the country over the so-called fiscal cliff.
The president warned that time is running out.
“We’re now at the last-minute and the American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy,” he said. “The economy’s growing, but it’s going to require elected officials to do their jobs.”
The White House issued a proposal a week ago asking lawmakers to preserve tax cuts for most Americans while increasing taxes on incomes above $250,000 annually.
At that time, Obama also asked for an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed.
Striking a deal seemed likely over a month ago when leaders met to discuss how they could avoid the fiscal cliff, however, talks broke down with either side unable to reach harmony on the particulars of rate increases, spending cuts and income thresholds.
House speaker John Boehner had been refusing rate increases, while accusing Obama of skimping on the spending cuts he would support as part of a deal to reduce deficits, remove threats of spending cuts and prevent across-the-board tax cuts.
Boehner presented last week a Plan B that would have let rates rise on million-dollar earners, but facing defeat, called off the vote.
Obama cut his holiday vacation in Hawaii short earlier this week to return to Washington and continue fiscal talks.
With files from The Associated Press