Cliffhanger for Obama, the 'hopeless optimist'
BARACK OBAMA, calling himself a ''hopeless optimist'', said he still believed Congress could pass a deal to avert the approaching fiscal cliff, and he urged both parties to craft at least an agreement he could sign into law before January 1.
In the White House briefing room on Friday, after a day of recriminations over failure to reach a deal, the US President said: ''As of today, I am still ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done.''
He said he remained committed to reducing the deficit, whether done ''all at once'' or in separate steps.
"How we get there, god only knows" ... US House Speaker John Boehner with US President Barack Obama. Photo: AP
But with time running out, Mr Obama called on Congress to work on at least an agreement that would prevent tax rates rising for 98 per cent of Americans, protect unemployment insurance and lay ''the groundwork for deficit reduction''.
He said he had asked congressional leaders to come up with a plan to be voted on this week.
''That is an achievable goal that could be done in 10 days,'' Mr Obama said. ''Call me a hopeless optimist but I actually still think we can get it done. [But] because we didn't get this done, I will see you next week.''
''Nobody gets 100 per cent of what they want,'' he said, implicitly acknowledging that a grand bargain that reduced the deficit was unlikely to be forged in the next 10 days. ''This is not simply a contest of parties between who looks good and who doesn't.''
Mr Obama said he hoped the time off for the holidays would give legislators cooler heads.
''I offered to compromise with Republicans in Congress,'' he said. ''I met them halfway on taxes, and I met them more than halfway on spending.''
Before he spoke, Mr Obama telephoned the Republican House Speaker, John Boehner.
He had sought to shift responsibility to Mr Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate to reach an agreement to avert spending cuts and tax rises after his fellow Republicans delivered a stunning rebuke to his plan to raise taxes on those making more than $US1 million.
He said his plan failed because many of his fellow Republicans simply did not want to be perceived to be raising any taxes.
He still favoured a grand bargain with the President that would set the stage for an overhaul of tax and welfare. ''How we get there, god only knows,'' he said.
The Washington Post