President Barack Obama and members of Congress are on Christmas break this week after failing to resolve issues that could lead to a so-called fiscal cliff – meaning tax hikes for middle class Americans and small businesses, coupled with deep spending cuts, effective January 1.
Obama has expressed hope for a resolution when Congress comes back between Christmas and New Year’s.
“As of today, I am still ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done. I still believe that reducing our deficit is the right thing to do for the long-term health of our economy and the confidence of our businesses. I remain committed to working towards that goal, whether it happens all at once or whether it happens in several different steps,” President Obama told the press before leaving for Hawaii with his family.
The President and House Speaker John Boehner have been on the front line of the negotiations, but have yet to agree. Obama is clear about the high stakes.
“Under current law, tax rates are scheduled to rise on most Americans. And even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us – every single one of us – agrees that tax rates shouldn’t go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses. Every member of Congress believes that. Every Democrat, every Republican. So there is absolutely no reason – none – not to protect these Americans from a tax hike. At the very least, let’s agree right now on what we already agree on. Let’s get that done.”
He concludes, “Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers. And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year. It’s that simple.”
In a nutshell, here are the issues of contention: Obama is sticking to a demand for tax hikes on the wealthy, while Republicans disagree. Republicans are holding out for deeper spending cuts, where Democrats disagree.
Compromise is crucial, Obama says: “We’re only going to be able to do it together. We’re going to have to find some common ground. And the challenge that we’ve got right now is that the American people are a lot more sensible and a lot more thoughtful and much more willing to compromise, and give, and sacrifice, and act responsibly than their elected representatives are. And that’s a problem.”