By Mark Felsenthal
HONOLULU Dec 26 As President Barack Obama cut
short a Christmas vacation to resume talks to avoid the "fiscal
cliff" of automatic year-end tax hikes and spending cuts, the
White House on Wednesday called on congressional Republicans not
to stand in the way of a resolution in the U.S. Congress.
"It's up to the Senate Minority Leader not to block a vote,
and it's up the House Republican leader, the Speaker of the
House ... to allow a vote," a senior administration official
told reporters traveling with the president.
Obama is seeking a stripped down deal to prevent tax rates
from rising on all but the wealthiest Americans and to stop
steep across-the-board spending cuts.
The White House last week proposed a broader package that
would have let tax rates stay low for those making up to
$400,000, a compromise from the president's previous rate hike
threshold of $250,000.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner was
unimpressed with the offer and sought unsuccessfully to push his
own proposal through Congress, but members of his own Republican
Party balked at rate hikes of any kind. Talks broke down after
that and the president and lawmakers left town for the holiday.
The focus will shift to the Senate for a deal, where Obama
will rely on an ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to work
out a bill that the top Senate Republican, Kentucky's Mitch
McConnell, will not obstruct. The House must also pass the
A broader effort to trim the nation's massive budget deficit
will have to wait, the official said.
Congressional stubbornness risks again damaging the fragile
economy, just as the nation's near-default in 2011 - the result
of a stalemate over raising the national borrowing limit - dealt
a nascent economic recovery a setback, the administration
"If you think about the possibility of Congress failing to
act to avert the fiscal cliff, combined with the abomination of
what occurred in the summer of 2011, hits to our economy aren't
coming from external factors, they're coming from congressional
stupidity," the official said.