As Senate aides scurried back and forth in the halls of Congress over the weekend, trying to come to some sort of agreement that will avert fiscal disaster and epic embarrassment, President Obama made a television appearance where he clearly dumped all the blame for the budget impasse in the laps of Republicans.
In an interview on “Meet the Press” that was taped on Saturday, just his second appearance on the show, the president used his bully pulpit to tell Americans exactly what they should think as the nation and the financial markets are poised for disaster in two days if agreement isn’t reached on the fiscal cliff.
Obama said Republicans “have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers” and rejected the idea that both sides are equally at fault, which is often the way it gets played in the national media so that media outlets won’t get accused of choosing sides.
“The only thing I would caution against…is I think this notion of, ‘Well, both sides are just kind of unwilling to cooperate.’ And that’s just not true,” he said. “I mean if you look at the facts, what you have is a situation here where the Democratic Party, warts and all, and certain me, warts and all, have consistently done our best to try to put country first.”
That the standoff persists, he said, “is an indication of how far certain factions inside the Republican Party have gone where they can’t even accept what used to be considered centrist, mainstream positions on these issues.”
In his bid to find common ground, Obama has raised his tax increase threshold from income of $250,000 to $400,000, thinking the higher number might be more palatable to Republicans. But if the GOP is adamantly opposed to raising taxes on anyone—House Republicans rejected Speaker John Boehner’s bid to raise taxes just on millionaires—it doesn’t matter how much Obama raises his threshold.
In his interview with David Gregory, the president sounded frustrated at the mind-boggling dysfunction of the town where he now lives. According to the published reports, the president has said he will bash the Republicans for intransigence in his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech in early January.
The president named Speaker Boehner and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell when he said “Congress has not been able to get this stuff done.” The reason, he said, is “not because Democrats in Congress don’t want to go ahead and cooperate, but because I think it’s been very hard for Speaker Boehner and Republican leader McConnell to accept the fact that taxes on the wealthiest Americans should go up a little bit, as part of an overall deficit reduction package.”
But Obama said if Republicans won’t agree on anything before Jan. 1, he would immediately propose a bill that would reduce rates for “middle-class families”—daring Republicans to vote down such a measure.
“So one way or another, we’ll get through this,” he said. “Do I wish that things were more orderly in Washington and rational and people listened to the best arguments and compromised and operated in a more thoughtful and organized fashion? Absolutely. But when you look at history, that’s been the exception rather than the norm.”
“They say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they’re behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected,” Obama said. “That seems to be their only overriding, unifying theme.”
But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted that Obama would get a “political victory” on the fiscal cliff,
“Hats off to the president,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He stood his ground. He’s going to get tax rate increases.”
Starting Tuesday, the average tax hike would increase 3-5 percent per person. The Senate is also negotiating an extension of unemployment benefits for some two million jobless Americans because checks would stop next week if a deal isn’t reached.