"The last thing you need on New Year's Eve is another speech from me," said a visibily exhausted President Obama at 1:30 PM EST on Monday during a terse press conference on the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations due before January 1st. Obama emphasized that he is currently working with Congressional leaderstowards an agreement to avoid tax increases on 98% of Americans in the coming year. The President emphasized that avoiding that tax increase is his “number one priority” and said that today it appears that an agreement is "within sight, but it is not done... It's not done.”
Obama stated he was making this appearance to make sure that "we emphasize [to Congress]... this is a pressing concern on people's minds."
Details on the potential agreement were few and vague, but the president assured Americans the potential agreement ensures no middle class tax hike. It will also extend currently available benefits, including lower taxes for families with children, the tuition tax credit, and tax breaks for clean energy companies. The President also stated he would extend unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans who would otherwise lose these benefits in 2013.
The President additionally blamed Congressional stonewalling for the ongoing lack of a resolution to budget negotiations, but expressed hope that a fiscal solution could be introduced in “stages.” “My preference would have been to solve all these problems in the context of a bigger deal... a Grand Bargain... With this Congress, that was obviously a little too much to hope for at this time,” the President said. He additionally pointed out that the White House has already agreed to 1 trillion dollars in spending cuts before these negotiations, and noted that this tax increase would be first time the wealthiest Americans would see a their taxes go up in two decades.
He also clearly targeted Congressional Republicans, noting that just a month ago they were adamant that no revenue increases could be part of any deal. Claiming their concessions as progress, the President reiterated that he was open to a “balanced” deal.
“I want to make clear that any agreement we have to deal with this automatic spending cuts that are being threatened... they have to be balanced... The same is true for any future deficit agreement,” Obama concluded.