President Barack Obama addressed the nation Dec. 28 following an hour-long negotiation with Congressional leaders on how to avoid the ever-approaching fiscal cliff. According to Obama, he has assigned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the task of reaching a compromise that can be sent to a floor vote no later than Dec. 30 when the House returns from its holiday break.
“The hour for immediate action is here, it is now,” Obama said. “In just four days every American’s tax rates are scheduled to go up by law. Every American’s paycheck will get considerably smaller. That would be the wrong thing to do for our economy. It would be bad for middle-class families, and it would be bad for businesses that depend on family spending.”
Obama still expressed optimism that a compromise can be reached and both houses can pass an agreement in time to avoid the cliff. However, if the senators are unable to compromise, he has urged Reid to bring a basic proposal to the floor for a vote. Such a package would consist mainly of Obama’s original proposal that was rejected by GOP leaders—extending tax cuts for Americans making less than $250,000 per year as well as extending federal unemployment insurance.
“If we don’t see an agreement between the two leaders in the Senate, I expect a bill to go on the floor,” Obama explained. “Put a bill on the floor and make sure taxes on middle-class families don’t go up, unemployment insurance is still available for two million people, and that lays the groundwork for additional deficit reduction and economic growth steps we can take in the new year.
“I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities as long as those leaders allow it to come to a vote,” Obama said. “If members of the House or Senate want to vote no, they can. But we should let everybody vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work.”
Obama acknowledged his constituent’s impatience with Washington rhetoric, as well as the impact the impending deadline has had on economic recovery.
“The American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy,” he said. “Right now the economy is growing, but sustaining the trend is going to require elected officials to do their jobs.
“The housing market is recovering, but that could be impacted if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, but already you’re seeing businesses and consumers starting to hold back because of the dysfunction they see in Washington.”
In fact, Obama himself seemed rather disenfranchised with his political colleagues and their inability to compromise.
“Nobody’s going to get 100 percent of what they want, but let’s make sure middle-class families and the American economy—and in fact the world economy— aren’t adversely affected because people can’t do their jobs,” he concluded.
For their parts, Reid and McConnell left the meeting in more positive spirits than reported earlier in the week. Reid called the meeting with the president “constructive,” while McConnell stated he was “hopeful and optimistic” about the outcome.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also attended the meeting with the president.