Obama grabs credit for potential ‘fiscal cliff’ deal in press conference

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama used a midday appearance to grab credit for popular parts of the pending “fiscal cliff” deal, to tout his apparent success in boosting taxes and to demand more tax increases during the next round of budget talks.

“If Republicans think I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone … that will hurt seniors or hurt students or hurt middle-class families, without asking for equivalent sacrifice from millionaires or companies with a lot of lobbyists … then they’ve got another thing coming,” he claimed.

“It is going to have to be a matter of shared sacrifice,” he said.

Obama’s threat was preceded by self-congratulation.

“The potential [fiscal cliff] agreement that is being talked about would not only make sure that taxes don’t go up on middle-class families,” he claimed, but would also continue tax credits for parents, extend unemployment for 2 million long-term unemployed and fund some of his green-tech priorities.

However, his speech was slammed by GOP-aligned commentators as grandstanding that could threaten the pending fiscal cliff deal.

The deal may fail, partly because it raises taxes by roughly $700 billion over 10 years, yet does not curb or cut any government spending sought by House GOP legislators.

Without spending curbs, the federal government will borrow roughly $8 trillion over the next decade, boosting the federal debt to roughly $22 trillion.

The president “sent a message of confrontation,” Sen. John McCain said on the Senate floor shortly after Obama’s statement. “I have to wonder, and I think the American people have to wonder, whether the president wants this issue resolved, or if it is in his short-term political benefit for us to go over the cliff,” he said.

Obama’s comments will “clearly, clearly antagonize members of the house,” he said. “That’s not how presidents should lead.”

“If Obama’s goal was to harm the process and make going over the cliff more likely, he’s succeeding,” said Doug Heye, a press secretary for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

The next round of talks is expected shortly before the federal government hits its credit limits, likely around the end of February.

Obama will need Congress to raise the nation’s debt limit, by roughly $2 trillion, to continue his spending plans past the 2014 election.

GOP leaders say they’ll seek long-term spending curbs equivalent to any short-term credit-limit increase.

But Obama pushed back against the GOP plan and suggested he would demand further tax increases in exchange for spending curbs.

“I’m willing to reduce our government Medicare bills by finding new ways of reducing the cost of Medicare,” he said. “But that kind of reform has to go hand in hand with some kind of work in reforming our tax code.”

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