President Barack Obama on Tuesday dismissed a House Republican deficit reduction offer as “still out of balance,” saying there will be no agreement until the GOP drops its opposition to income tax hikes.
“I don’t think the issue right now has to do with sitting in a room,” Obama said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “The issue right now that’s relevant is the acknowledgment that if we’re going to raise revenues that are sufficient to balance with the very tough cuts that we’ve already made and the further reforms in entitlements that I’m prepared to make, that we’re going to have to see the rates on the top 2 percent go up. And we’re not going to be able to get a deal without it.”
“It’s not me being stubborn,” Obama added. “It’s not me being partisan. It’s just a matter of math.”
In his first TV interview since winning reelection, Obama left room for a potential compromise that raises the rates on income above $250,000, somewhere above the current level of 35 percent.
“We have the potential of getting a deal done,” Obama said. “Unfortunately, the speaker’s proposal right now is still out of balance.”
Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Mr. Obama needs to get serious about the negotiations.
“So I would hope the president would turn off the campaign – congratulations, you had a great victory – and let’s get serious about dealing with this deficit and debt,” said McConnell. “We have wasted an enormous amount of time here, sparring back and forth in public. And it strikes me that it is a good time to get serious about the proposals.”
The 10-year, $2.2 trillion proposal from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, resembles a framework similar to what Boehner supported last year, but Obama is pressing for additional tax increases and appears to be balking at spending cuts discussed in those talks and since.
“To protect the middle class while reducing the deficit, simple math dictates that tax rates must rise on the top 2 percent of taxpayers next year,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. “The sooner Republicans grasp that reality, the sooner we can avoid the fiscal cliff.”
Speaker Boehner defended his proposal as a “middle ground solution that can cut spending and bring in revenue without hurting American small businesses.”
“The president now has an obligation to respond with a proposal that does the same and can pass both chambers of Congress,” the speaker said in a statement. “We’re ready and eager to talk with the president about such a proposal.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called congressional Republicans “fiscal cliff” proposal “magic beans and fairy dust” today.
“It’s not a plan to say we’re going to magically increase revenues,” Carney said. “It’s magic beans and fairy dust.”
“The president has put forward specific proposals. Look, I acknowledge that not with any great specificity, there’s a little more meat on the bones in terms of their proposals on the spending cut side. When it comes to revenues, it doesn’t meet the test of balance or the necessary test of specificity,” Carney asserted.
Meanwhile, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday, the world needs a fiscal cliff deal. “I hope it doesn’t run on too long, because the world really is watching,” Blair said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “The single thing that would give the biggest boost to global confidence right now would be to resolve the fiscal cliff position.”
Blair said going over the cliff would be “very bad” but that he was optimistic, saying that many assume the U.S. will eventually hammer out a deal, especially with the election out of the way.
“The expectation in the world is that you will sort it out,” he said. “If you do, I think the American economy, I’d be more optimistic about the American economy than any other part of the Western world. If you get this sorted out, you can really move forward.”
“Keep pressure on Congress,” Obama tweeted during a chat that was part of the White House “My2K” Twitter campaign to drum up support for its position in the “fiscal cliff” debate.
The “My2K” hashtag refers to more than $2,000 in extra taxes that average American families would pay if the government falls off the cliff and a series of tax cuts expire at the start of 2013.
During the chat, Obama stressed that higher tax rates on Americans who make more than $250,000 a year are essential to a “balanced” plan to reduce the nation’s $16 trillion-plus federal debt.
“Gotta go. Thx. Keep pressure on Congress. Call, email, tweet your Member & tell them what 2k means to you. Lets get it done. #my2k –bo,” was Obama’s final tweet.