December 28th, 2012
06:00 PM ET
10 months ago

Transcript: Obama 'Modestly optimistic' fiscal cliff deal can be reached

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said on Friday that he is "modestly optimistic" a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff can still be reached, but he warned that no one will get 100% of what they want.

Obama's full remarks, as transcribed by the White House, are below the jump.

Good afternoon, everybody. For the past couple of months, I’ve been working with leaders of both parties to try and forge an agreement that would grow our economy and shrink the deficit - a balanced plan that would cut spending in a responsible way but also ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, and, above all, protect our middle class and everybody who is striving to get into the middle class.

I still want to get this done. It’s the right thing to do for our families, for our businesses, and for our entire economy. But the hour for immediate action is here. It is now.

We’re now at the point where, in just four days, every American’s tax rates are scheduled to go up by law. Every American’s paycheck will get considerably smaller. And that would be the wrong thing to do for our economy, it would be bad for middle-class families, and it would be bad for businesses that depend on family spending. Fortunately, Congress can prevent it from happening if they act right now.

I just had a good and constructive discussion here at the White House with Senate and House leadership about how to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I’m optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time. Senators Reid and McConnell are working on such an agreement as we speak.

But if an agreement isn’t reached in time between Senator Reid and Senator McConnell, then I will urge Senator Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up-or-down vote –- one that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends the vital lifeline of unemployment insurance to two million Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future cooperation on more economic growth and deficit reduction.

I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities as long as those leaders allow it to actually come to a vote. If members of the House or the Senate want to vote no, they can –- but we should let everybody vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work. If you can get a majority in the House and you can get a majority in the Senate, then we should be able to pass a bill.

So the American people are watching what we do here. Obviously, their patience is already thin. This is déjà vu all over again. America wonders why it is that in this town, for some reason, you can't get stuff done in an organized timetable; why everything always has to wait until the last minute. Well, we're now at the last minute, and the American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. Not right now.

The economy is growing, but sustaining that trend is going to require elected officials to do their jobs. The housing market is recovering, but that could be impacted if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, but already you're seeing businesses and consumers starting to hold back because of the dysfunction that they see in Washington.

Economists, business leaders all think that we’re poised to grow in 2013 –- as long as politics in Washington don’t get in the way of America’s progress.

So we've got to get this done. I just want to repeat - we had a constructive meeting today. Senators Reid and McConnell are discussing a potential agreement where we can get a bipartisan bill out of the Senate, over to the House and done in a timely fashion so that we've met the December 31st deadline. But given how things have been working in this town, we always have to wait and see until it actually happens. The one thing that the American people should not have to wait and see is some sort of action.

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 Senator 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.

But let's not miss this deadline. That’s the bare minimum that we should be able to get done, and it shouldn’t be that hard since Democrats and Republicans both say they don’t want to see taxes go up on middle-class families.

I just have to repeat - outside of Washington, nobody understands how it is that this seems to be a repeat pattern over and over again. Ordinary folks, they do their jobs. They meet deadlines. They sit down and they discuss things, and then things happen. If there are disagreements, they sort through the disagreements. The notion that our elected leadership can't do the same thing is mind-boggling to them. It needs to stop.

So I'm modestly optimistic that an agreement can be achieved. Nobody is going to get 100 percent of what they want, but let's make sure that middle-class families and the American economy - and, in fact, the world economy - aren't adversely impacted because people can't do their jobs.

Thank you very much, everybody.


Filed under: Fiscal Cliff • President Obama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Sam

    I swear this poor President having to work with a group of idiots in Congress. It's a sad day in our Country when the leaders we depend on to do the work of the Country can't even do that...all that matters to them in having their pockets lined with $$$ from lobbyists.

    December 28, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  2. Tim

    Happy Obama could start working on it in the last 5 days. Either he is inept or wants to go over the cliff. There is no other reason to think he acts like a freshman kid working on his term paper he has known about all semester in the last 5 days. Obama is the problem and has been the problem and am happy that I have the assets to weather what he is bringing upon us.

    December 28, 2012 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    More optimistic than I.

    December 28, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  4. AVGPAGUY

    I really hope that we can avoid the cliff. It is really not something that we should be taking lightly – or playing games with.

    December 28, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  5. moonraker

    The "party of 'no'" better start saying 'yes' or they are going to be the "party of obsolete".

    December 28, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  6. Patty

    Will the House and Senate members give up their salaries until they can come to an agreement on this matter? The rest of us are being held hostage until they can "play nice". Those of who are not wealthy have decisions to make. This is cruel beyond comprehension.

    December 28, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  7. Ron

    It would be nice if grown men could get together and work out problems that plague our country, But, until the Republicans get out of the pockets of the rich, I really don,t see that happening! We elect them, they become millionairs and the people become fodder for thier cannons!!!

    December 28, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  8. RIch

    Oh my God, he sounds like a big cry baby. Sounds like he's saying "that if he doesn't get his way there will be hell to pay". I still can't believe he got relected. Here is a guy, who took a vacation (God knows how many this makes in his first term but I can guaranty you it's more than most of us have been able to take in 3 years) just prior to the fiscal cliff deadline. So instead of working diligently to get the job done, he takes time off and now wants to blame everyone else for not meeting the deadline. Mr. President, look iin the mirror. Please recall what you said during your 1st term "the time for blame is over". You have 4 years to fix this, you have done absolutely NOTHING!!! Looks to me like the entire U.S. Government should be fired and we should start from scratch and rebuilt.

    December 28, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  9. chris

    For a president of the united states to say he is concerned about the middle class tax rates going up after spending 4 years blowing the budget off the roof in spending has this American laughing out loud. Thats like me running up my credit card to the max and saying well I made one payment on time...so back off creditors.

    December 28, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  10. Anayo

    my question is, who are the Republicans protecting? the rich people that are begging to pay higher tax? I do not understand their modus operandis. Why would every thing with the Republicans be their way or the high way? Why so much opposition to every issue even when the American people agrees with the president? Why do they have such a hatred with this President. They will rather do every thing to tarnish him even if it means the American people soffering and the whole country going into recession. It's amazing what these guys come up with. If America goes over the cliff, every body's tax will go up much high than they say they are protect and this will include the rich and the middle class American. so what have they gained? Obama ran on the platform of increasing taxes on the wealthest Americans and won, he should at least be given that credit.

    December 28, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  11. Randall Fenton

    Republicans should go along with the unemployment extension but should require the tax increase be on those who make a minimum of $500,000 (preferably a million) and DEMAND a dollar amount of spending reduction to be finalized in 2013. If there's no specific $ amount of reduction agreed upon and part of the agreement, Obama will have every excuse in the book to not be fiscally responsible to reduce the excess spending. In summary, Obama calls for compromise but he's had no intention of doing so. He is a real hypocrite.

    December 28, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  12. J.V.Hodgson

    I read this and look at someone ( Obama) who is prepared to compromise significantly in the best interests of the nation as a whole. I look at the pure ideological extremism that Republicans are sticking to and coming up with no realistic spending cuts as part of any plan other than to do away with thier part of the budget act sequester on defense.
    Ideologically they have not moved one centimeter from thier rigid ideology. Plan B never was a plan it did not get voted on is not something Obama or democrats can answer.. non existent. That despite any independent economist has said solving the US debt and budget deficits requires tax increases and spending cuts. Either alone does not work.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    December 28, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  13. nomad2003

    same old. story, nothing new...
    during campaign... 800 billion in revenue 2400 billion in cuts
    after the election 1600 billion in revenue 1600 billion in cuts
    and now 1400 billion in revenue 24 billion in cuts...

    and a CUT is defined as a reduction of future INCREASES in spending, not a decrease in what is actually spent...
    only in DC....

    December 29, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  14. JD

    Good Job Mr. President! Hopefully the party of no can agree!

    December 29, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  15. Gurgyl

    Obama, for the sake of Middle Class America, please do not COMPROMISE your conscience. No touching SS, Medicare which are not free–these are paid by my fellow Americans.

    December 29, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  16. Larry L

    I trust the President and to some extent Speaker Boehner – but Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor are simply old-fashioned, sleazy politicians determined to protect the fat cats and only care about the wealthy who keep them in office. We'll see...

    December 29, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  17. Phil

    So, the message is: If you dont take my take-it-or-leave-it deal that I have never budged from
    then you are not doing your job.

    December 29, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  18. kelly in los angeles

    obama is a smart man and a good president

    December 29, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |