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Bridget Johnson

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December 30, 2012 - 11:03 am

With less than 48 hours to go before the fiscal cliff, President Obama claimed that his side has the backing of “the majority of the American people including close to half of Republicans” as it pushes a “sensible deal” to raise taxes on upper-income brackets.

“I think it’s important for the American people to understand exactly what this fiscal cliff is because it’s actually not that complicated,” Obama said this morning on NBC’s Meet the Press. “…If we’re serious about deficit reduction, we should make sure that the wealthy are paying a little bit more and combine that with spending cuts to reduce our deficit and put our economy on a long-term trajectory of growth.”

The president said the onus is on Congress to arrive at a last-minute deal.

“You know, we have been talking to the Republicans ever since the election was over. They have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers,” he said. “Yesterday I had another meeting with the leadership and I suggested to them if they can’t do a comprehensive package of smart deficit reduction, let’s at minimum make sure that people’s taxes don’t go up. And that two million people don’t lose their unemployment insurance. And I was modestly optimistic yesterday.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in a statement responding to Obama’s appearance, said, “Americans elected President Obama to lead, not cast blame.”

“The president’s comments today are ironic, as a recurring theme of our negotiations was his unwillingness to agree to anything that would require him to stand up to his own party. Needed cuts and reforms that the president agreed to just last year were no longer on the table, as he cited an inability to sell them to Democrats,” Boehner said.

“We’ve been reasonable and responsible. The president is the one who has never been able to get to ‘yes,’” he added.

This morning on CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said he’d been in touch with negotiators, who have been working all weekend.

“There is no deal yet. I continue to hope for a bipartisan agreement today,” Barrasso said.

“What we’re seeing here is a monumental failure of Presidential leadership. The President is the only person with a pen to sign this, and it’s the President’s responsibility to work on something that the House will pass, the Senate will pass, and that he will sign, but he is outsourcing this,” the senator added. “He continues to campaign and lecture when he ought to be focusing on the number one problem that hurts us as a country, which is our debt.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on ABC’s This Week that there’s “a real possibility of a deal” even though there have been no breakthroughs yet.

“I’ve been a legislator for 37 years, and I’ve watched how these things work. On these big, big agreements, they almost always happen at the last minute. Neither side likes to give up its position. They eyeball each other until the very end,” Schumer said. “But then, each side, realizing that the alternative is worse, comes to an agreement. So while an agreement is hardly a certainty, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out at this last minute.”

“If we are not able to reach an agreement, it will be dire,” warned Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “And that’s from everybody from the Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, as you know, to the Fed chairman, probably at least another million jobs lost, an unemployment rate over 9 percent, and putting us back into recession. So responsible people on both sides of the aisle do need to try to come together, and there is a significant effort underway right now.”

Boehner noted that while continuously pushing the House to vote on the Senate Democrats’ White House-approved tax cut extension for the middle class only, Obama has never extended the same ecumenical attitude toward the lower chamber’s bills to extend tax cuts and avoid sequestration.

“The House has passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff, and the president has never called for the Senate to act on those bills in any way. He instead has simply allowed the Democratic-controlled Senate to sit on them and lead our economy to the edge of the fiscal cliff,” Boehner said.

“I am pleased Senators from both parties are currently working to find a bipartisan solution that can finally pass that chamber. That is the type of leadership America needs, not what they saw from the president this morning,” he added.

On NBC, David Gregory asked Obama if he had a role in breaking the congressional impasse.

“You know, at a certain point, if folks can’t say yes to good offers, then I also have an obligation to the American people to make sure that the entire burden of deficit reduction doesn’t fall on seniors, who are relying on Medicare,” the president responded. “…There is a basic fairness that is at stake in this whole thing that the American people understand and they listen to an entire year’s debate about it.

“And at a certain point, you know, it is very important for Republicans in Congress to be willing to say we understand we’re not going to get 100 percent, we are willing to compromise in a serious way in order to solve problems as opposed to be worrying about the next election,” Obama added. “…The offers that I’ve made to them have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me.”

Barrasso said negotiations were like “trying to line up Rubik’s cube right now.”

“We’re not there yet. We’re going to be meeting later today. This is going to continue, I think, until on to tomorrow,” he said. “My goal is to help keep tax rates down for all Americans. I think it hurts our economy if tax rates go up. That’s why I’m very concerned for the future and the growth of our economy and jobs.”

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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