President Obama on Friday pressed Congress to at least pass a stopgap measure to prevent taxes from going up on virtually all Americans at the end of the year, looking to break the logjam on deadlocked fiscal negotiations.
Obama made a late afternoon appearance in the White House Briefing Room Friday to assure Americans he was committed to reaching a deal with Republicans despite stalled talks on the so-called fiscal cliff.
Though Obama expressed confidence in a big deal, the president was clearly appealing for a smaller package of ideas that is more likely to pass Congress in coming days. At a minimum, he called for middle class tax cuts, the extension of unemployment insurance and the framework to bring down the deficit.
If leaders don’t come to an agreement in 10 days, the average family of four could see their taxes increase by $3,500 next year, a prospect Obama said that both parties were against.
“All of us, every single one of us, agree that tax rates shouldn’t go up for the other 98 percent of Americans,” Obama said. “There is absolutely no reason – none – not to protect these Americans from a tax hike.”
The president’s unscheduled appearance comes after Republicans were unable to coalesce behind a plan Thursday that would have raised taxes solely on millionaires. As a result, some question whether House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, can push any deal through his chamber that includes tax increases of any kind.
However, Obama said he remained “ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done.”
Obama met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., just before addressing reporters and spoke with Boehner by phone Friday.
Both chambers of Congress are leaving town and Obama alluded to a holiday vacation of his own. The president is leaving with his family for Hawaii later tonight. It is unknown when he will return.
“As we leave town to be with our families for the holidays, I hope it gives everyone some perspective,” he said. “Then I’d ask every member of Congress to think of the obligations we have to the people who sent us here.”