(This post has been updated at 3:17 p.m.)
President Obama, hoping to keep pressure on House Republicans in the standoff over the payroll tax cut, stood Thursday with of a group of Americans he said would be affected if the tax holiday expires at the end of the month.
In his remarks at the South Court auditorium in the Old Executive Office Building across from the White House, Obama demaned that the House pass compromise legislation already approved by the Senate that would extend the tax cut for two months. The president said he was “ready to sign that compromise into law the second it lands on my desk.”
“So it’s time for the House to listen to the voices that are up here, the voices all across the country, and reconsider,” Obama said. “Enough is enough. The people standing with me today can’t afford any more games. They can’t afford to lose $1,000 because of some ridiculous Washington standoff.”
Obama said those standing with him were among 30,000 people who had responded to a White House campaign asking Americans what $40 meant to them. That represents the amount of additional money that an average worker would keep in his or her paycheck every two weeks if the payroll tax cut is extended.
Obama read some excerpts of the responses, including one from a Rhode Island man who said an extra $40 buys enough heating oil to keep his family warm for three nights, and another from a teacher in the District who said she uses the money to buy supplies for her fourth-grade class.
The stage-managed event was part of the White House’s social media campaign to increase public pressure on House Republicans. On Twitter, Facebook and e-mail, the administration was urging supporters to explain what $40 means to them, using the hashtag #40dollars, as a way to put a human face on the policy debate that has resulted in gridlock on Capitol Hill.
House Republicans rejected a Senate-approved bill that would provide a two-month extension, with Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) saying his caucus would prefer crafting a year-long extension before the end of the month.
Obama, who along with Democrats supports a year-long extension, has said that there is not enough time to hammer out details by Jan. 1 and demanded that the House approve the short-term extension, promising that a longer solution can be worked out by February.
The standoff has led to worries among both Democrats and Republicans that Americans could see their taxes rise by an average of $1,000 per year.
At his daily press briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney read a number of the responses he said flooded the White House in response to the #40dollars campaign.
And a message from Obama to the White House’s 2.6 million Twitter followers was posted Wednesday night: “Everyone should see what #40dollars means to folks: groceries, daycare, gas, copays. Keep it going. I’ll talk abt this tmrw @ 12:15ET. –bo”