WASHINGTON -- With just three days to go before tax rates rise for all Americans and 1 trillion dollars in spending cuts over the next decade are triggered, President Barack Obama announced to the American public that the time for negotiations had not yet passed.
Several hours earlier, the president had met with top congressional leaders to discuss a path of resolution to the so-called fiscal cliff. It was, he said, a “good and constructive discussion," one that had left him “modestly optimistic” that a deal could still get done. But he chastised lawmakers for waiting once more until the last minute to reach an agreement.
“This is déjà vu all over again,” he declared, adding that, “outside of Washington, nobody understands how it is that this seems to be a repeat pattern.”
More importantly, the president declared that if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are unable to reach a deal, he wants an up-or-down vote on a small package that would extend tax cuts for middle class Americans, continue unemployment benefits and lay the groundwork for future deficit reduction.
"The hour for immediate action is here. It is now," Obama said in a statement before the White House press corps. “If an agreement isn’t reached in time between Sen. Reid and Sen. McConnell, then I will urge Sen. Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up-or-down vote.”
"So if we don’t see an agreement between the two leaders in the Senate, I expect a bill to go on the floor -- and I've asked Sen. Reid to do this -- put a bill on the floor that makes sure that taxes on middle-class families don’t go up, that unemployment insurance is still available for two million people, and that lays the groundwork, then, for additional deficit reduction and economic growth steps that we can take in the New Year," Obama added.