WASHINGTON – President Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to put pressure on the Senate’s leaders as they work to craft a deal that would avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
Obama said he believed “we may be able to reach an agreement” to avoid a series of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in the new year. But he warned that if Senate leaders failed, he would push for a vote on his stripped-down proposal to block the tax hikes on the middle class.
“I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities – as long as these leaders allow it to come to a vote,” Obama said in his taped remarks. “If they still want to vote no and let this tax hike hit the middle class, that’s their prerogative – but they should let everyone vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work.”
The move was meant to increase the political heat on Republicans, who opposed Obama’s plan to allow taxes to rise on top earners. If no deal is reached, Republicans could find themselves in the position of blocking the legislation that would prevent the tax hike for most taxpayers.
Obama delivered the same message Friday night, after a meeting with congressional leaders at which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed to work together to try to reach a last-minute compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Republicans sought Saturday to shift pressure back onto the president.
“There’s not much time, but there’s still time to act,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), in the GOP address. “The president will never have more political capital than he does right now, and the next few days will begin to define his second term. He was elected to lead.”
Whatever Reid and McConnell produce, it won’t be the large deficit-reduction deal the president originally sought. Obama again touted his effort to craft a “balanced plan” and suggested he was ready to mount another campaign against Congress if the deal fails.
“You meet your deadlines and your responsibilities every day. The folks you sent here to serve should do the same,” he said. “We cannot let Washington politics get in the way of America’s progress.”