Obama: "modestly optimistic" fiscal cliff deal can be reached

WASHINGTON Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:42pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington December 28, 2012. Obama held out hope for a last-minute agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts after a meeting with congressional leaders, scolding Congress for leaving the problem unresolved until the eleventh hour. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington December 28, 2012. Obama held out hope for a last-minute agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts after a meeting with congressional leaders, scolding Congress for leaving the problem unresolved until the eleventh hour.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama held out hope for a last-minute agreement to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and spending cuts after a meeting with congressional leaders, scolding Congress for leaving the problem unresolved until the eleventh hour.

"The hour for immediate action is here," he told reporters at the White House. "I'm modestly optimistic that an agreement can be achieved," he said.

Obama and lawmakers are working to prevent around $600 billion in combined federal spending cuts and tax increases, a shock economists say could stop the economic recovery in its tracks and perhaps reverberate beyond U.S. shores.

The president, who won re-election on a platform that included a pledge to raise taxes on top earners, said Senate leaders were working right now to craft a bipartisan measure that could win approval in both houses of Congress.

But if those last-ditch efforts were to fall short, lawmakers should hold a vote on a "bare minimum" measure that would extend existing tax rates for all but the wealthiest Americans and extend unemployment insurance, he said.

Obama took Congress to task for stalling on negotiations in a manner that is reminiscent of the 2011 stalemate that brought the nation close to the brink of defaulting on its debt and that hurt the economic recovery.

"This is déjà vu all over again," he said.

"America wonders why it is that in this town for some reason you can't get stuff done in an organized timetable," he added. "Well, we're now at the last minute."

The president said the latest budget impasse was once again harming economic growth.

"Already you're seeing businesses and consumers starting to hold back because of the dysfunction that they see in Washington."

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; editing by Todd Eastham)

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Comments (3)
DeannaTx wrote:
The Senate can posture all they want about putting together something to avoid the fiscal cliff and be as modestly optomistic as they please. But the reality is it’s in the hands of the House. The same House who hasn’t played anything but our way or the highway for th epast two years. Citing they have a mandate to not realsitically cooperate in any sense of the meaning of the word cooperate.
The President and Senate have already catered to them time after time and look where its gotten us. A longer than needed slower than needed recovery from this recession. House members who sit in their offices doing exactly nothing but standing up to veto whatever comes before them on nearly any measure then back to playing pacman or wow on the taxpayers dime.
I have no optimism left. This has been the most sickening absurd 2 years I’ve ever witnessed.

Dec 28, 2012 6:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
USMCPatriot wrote:
It is going to be interesting to watch Harry Reid and the President eat a healthy serving of crow after their frittering away 17 months in refusing to properly deal with the country’s financial woes. They are disgusting pair of human beings that have place unrealistic goals ahead of the real world and one way or the other at this point we will all be paying for their folly. Regardless of what is or isn’t done at this point we are headed for perfectly miserable financial times, not just as a country but individually. If we are lucky we’ll skate by with a deep recession. If we are unlucky we will slide into a full blown depression and all the problems that go with it. We are in very serious trouble!

Dec 28, 2012 7:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
flashrooster wrote:
DeannaTx: I share your frustration and disgust. These Republicans just don’t care about our nation. Our history should be serving as our blueprint for today. It’s the best blueprint on running a country arguably in the history of man. The Republicans are antiAmerican. They flat out reject that blueprint that has worked so well for us in the past. They want to replace our system with a modern day feudal system, where 99% of us work as serfs while being ruled by 1%, who own everything. That’s their vision for America. And clearly they reject democracy. If they don’t like what the majority wants, like higher taxes on the rich or a better, more affordable healthcare system, the Republicans figure out a way to abuse the system to force their minority views on the majority. They are constantly giving us a choice of either doing things their way or they’ll see to it that the country’s best interests are harmed. That way, if the Democrats don’t cave in to the minority view, they’ll have to bear witness to whatever harm the Republicans do to us, like this fiscal cliff, or flooding our society with guns, or protecting the most inefficient healthcare system in the world. It’s a heck of a choice. Their way or bring harm to the country. They’ve grown impatient with democracy and are showing a preference for authoritarianism.

USMCPatriot: It’s not Obama and Reid who are refusing to deal with our financial problems. Unless you understand how we got here, you can’t understand how to properly fix this mess. We had balanced budgets until Bush and the Republicans cut taxes and took us to war, twice. Understand this: Until Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, American Presidents always raised taxes to pay for wars we engaged in. War is not free. It costs lives of our soldiers and tax dollars. Bush and the Republicans were more concerned about the public’s attitude toward their wars than they were about actually doing the right thing. They wanted people to forget about the wars and to just go about their business, and enjoy the tax cuts. It was bad govening and grossly irresponsible. They should have raised taxes to pay for our wars, not cut them. Let’s not continue their error. It’s time to pay for those wars. Better late than never.

And just to give you some perspective, the US has some of the lowest taxes among all developed nations. Taxes are also at historical lows. Common sense will tell you that we can’t afford historical lows at this point in time. And if you want to cut spending, don’t just say you want to cut spending. State what you want cut, and understand the consequences.

The biggest drain on our tax dollars are defense and healthcare. Both need to be cut, but both can be accomplished through greater efficiency. We can spend less on defense and actually improve our fighting capabilities. And understand that we can never get a grip on healthcare costs until we change how we do healthcare and start lowering the costs. Just cutting people off of Medicare and Medicaid won’t solve the problem. We can’t afford to have the most inefficient healthcare system in the world. Are you aware that the Republicans put into law a restriction that prevents Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug costs? That’s insane. They did it to protect the profits of the pharmaceutical industry in exchange for campaign donations. Also, several Republicans left government shortly after the bill was passed and went to work for the pharmaceutial industry making millions. This was part of Bush’s Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. All of that is true.

Dec 29, 2012 2:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
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