WASHINGTON – Optimistic despite a tightening deadline, President Obama says he and Speaker John Boehner are “pretty close” to a grand fiscal deal that would avoid a first-of-the-year shock to the economy, but says congressional Republicans “keep on finding ways to say no as opposed to finding ways to say yes.”
Obama cast a resolution to the “fiscal cliff” as a matter of political will. He said in the aftermath of the massacre of school children in Connecticut, the nation deserves a compromise by its political leaders.
“Goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective,” he said. And he urged lawmakers to “peel off the partisan war paint” and strike a deal.
Obama spoke to reporters at the White House after announcing an administration-wide response to Friday’s shooting at an elementary school in Newtown that killed 26 people including 20 first graders.
His comments came shortly after the White House threatened to veto Boehner’s backup plan for averting the “fiscal cliff.” Boehner’s measure, a so-called Plan B, would block tax increases from being triggered Jan. 1 on everyone but those whose incomes exceed $1 million.
Boehner is planning a House vote on his proposal on Thursday, hoping it would raise pressure on President Barack Obama to make concessions as both sides continue reaching for a bipartisan deal on averting the “fiscal cliff.” Without an agreement among lawmakers, broad tax increases on nearly all taxpayers and budget-wide spending cuts will be triggered in early January.
Obama, however, dismissed Boehner’s proposal, saying it would not provide unemployment insurance for 2 million jobless Americans and would result in higher taxes for families that benefit from various tax credits.
“That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go,” Obama said. Instead, Obama said, he and Boehner in their own talks had moved significantly toward each other before talks reached a lull on Tuesday.
“What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars,” Obama said. “The idea that we would put our economy at risk because you can’t bridge that gap doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said White House opposition to the GOP backup plan “is growing more bizarre and irrational by the day.” He said Republicans prefer a deficit-cutting plan that is balanced between tax increases and spending cuts, but Obama has yet to offer such a proposal.
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