By Mark Felsenthal and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON Dec 19 President Barack Obama on
Wednesday urged Republicans to move beyond partisan objections
to compromise with him on averting the year-end "fiscal cliff"
and invoked the tragic Newtown elementary school massacre in a
plea for flexibility.
"Right now what the country needs is for us to compromise,
get a deficit reduction deal in place," the president told
reporters at the White House.
"If you just pull back from the immediate, you know,
political battles, if you kind of peel off the partisan war
paint, then we should be able to get something done," he said.
Obama and congressional Republicans are struggling to come
up with a deal to avoid year-end tax hikes and spending cuts
that many economists say could plunge the economy back into
The president made a fresh offer earlier this week that
would raise taxes on those making $400,000 a year or more, but
the House of Representatives could vote on a proposal by Speaker
John Boehner that would extend current tax rates for all but
those making $1 million or more.
The White House said on Wednesday that Boehner's "Plan B"
places too heavy a tax burden on the middle class and preserves
too many advantages for the wealthiest Americans, and that the
president would veto the measure if it reached his desk.
Obama said that despite what his aides have described as a
standstill in negotiations, he is still optimistic that a deal
is possible, but said he is puzzled that Republicans have not
yet accepted his plan as a basis for negotiation.
The president said he will continue to talk to Boehner and
other congressional leaders to try to find a way to bridge
differences, adding that he would like to get a deal done before
Christmas. His aides said earlier in the day that he is willing
to forego his scheduled Christmas holiday, due to start Friday,
to continue fiscal cliff talks if necessary.
The heartbreaking deaths of the children in Newtown,
Connecticut, on Friday should offer additional motivation for
the two sides to come to terms, the president said.
"If there's one thing we should have after this week, it
should be a sense of perspective about what's important," Obama
said, when asked whether he thought Republicans would be able to
cooperate with him to avoid the tax hikes and spending cuts
associated with the fiscal cliff.
He made clear, however, that he will not negotiate with
Republicans over raising the national debt limit, which is
expected to be reached in the first few months of next year. A
Republican insistence in 2011 that any increase in the borrowing
cap be matched by spending cuts led the nation to the brink of
default and set back the pace of economic recovery.