Politics
President Barack Obama speaks to reporters about the fiscal cliff in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) President Barack Obama speaks to reporters about the fiscal cliff in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  

Obama downplays spending cuts prior to Hawaii vacation

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama used a brief statement Friday evening to pitch a conciliatory message about the stalled budget talks, shortly before departing for his Christmas vacation in Hawaii.

He called for Congress to pass a stripped-down bill before Jan. 1 that would extend unemployment insurance for 2 million long-term unemployed, and halt scheduled tax increases on taxes on 98 percent of earners — roughly speaking, everyone below $250,000 a year.

But Obama’s proposed stripped-down bill would not curb spending, as sought by the GOP and much of the public.

“In 10 days we face a deadline … tax rates are scheduled to rise on most Americans… that [bill] can get done in 10 days,” Obama told the press in a much more conciliatory tone than marked his Dec. 20 press conference.

“Laws can only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans — that means nobody gets 100 percent of what they want,” he said, the day after the GOP caucus refused to support a leadership-drafted “Plan B” that would have raised taxes on people who earn more than $1 million per year.

Obama has been pushing the GOP to pass a tax hike on people who earn more than $250,000 per year.

But a stripped-down bill would give Obama the extra tax revenue he wants, without the spending-reforms sought by the GOP.

His Democratic allies strongly oppose spending reforms, such as the use of market-incentives to help Medicare recipients get a share of cost-savings.

Once the proposed stripped-down bill is passed, Obama said, legislators could work on other aspects of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which is slated to impose spending cuts and tax increases by the end of 2013.

The cliff would also halve the expected $1 trillion deficit expected in 2013.

Despite the conciliatory tone, Obama suggested that the GOP’s ideological priorities — such as opposition to tax cuts — can be easily sacrificed in favor of the Democrats’ ideological demand for greater spending and bigger government.

A political compromise, he insisted, “doesn’t take much work — we just have to do the right thing.”

Over Christmas, he said, “Everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones. And then I’d ask every member of Congress while they’re back home to think about that. Think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here. Think about the hardship that so many Americans will endure if Congress does nothing at all.”

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