Full transcript of President Obama’s remarks on the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations at the White House on Dec. 31, 2012.
OBAMA: Hello, everybody.
Thank you. Please, everybody have a seat.
Well, good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the White House.
(UNKNOWN): Thank you for having us.
OBAMA: Now I realize that the last thing you want to hear on New Year’s Eve is another speech from me, but I do need to talk about the progress that’s being made in Congress today.
For the last few days, leaders in both parties have been working toward an agreement that will prevent a middle-class tax hike from hitting 98 percent of all Americans starting tomorrow.
Preventing that tax hike has been my top priority, because the last thing folks like the folks up here on this stage can afford right now is to pay an extra $2,000 in taxes next year. Middle-class families can’t afford it. Businesses can’t afford it. Our economy can’t afford it.
Now today it appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year’s tax hike is within sight. But it’s not done. There are still issues left to resolve, but we’re hopeful that Congress can get it done. But it’s not done.
And so part of the reason that I wanted to speak to all of you here today is to make sure it that we emphasize to Congress, and that members of both parties understand that all across America this is a pressing concern on people’s minds.
Now, the potential agreement that’s being talked about would not only make sure the taxes don’t go up on middle-class families, it also would extend tax credits for families with children. It would extend our tuition tax credit that’s helped millions of families pay for college. It would extend tax credits for clean energy companies that are creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It would extend unemployment insurance to 2 million Americans who are out there still actively looking for a job.
I have to say that ever since I took office, throughout the campaign, and over the last couple of months, my preference would have been to solve all these problems in the context of a larger agreement, a bigger deal, a grand bargain, whatever you want to call it, that solves our deficit problems in a balanced and responsible way, that doesn’t just deal with the taxes, but deals with the spending in a balanced way so that we can put all this behind us and just focus on growing our economy.
But with this Congress, that was obviously a little too much to hope for at this time.
It may be we can do it in stages. We’re going to solve this problem instead in several steps.
Last year, in 2011, we started reducing the deficit through $1 trillion in spending cuts. Those have already taken place. The agreement being worked on right now would further reduce the deficit by asking the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay higher taxes for the first time in two decades. So that would add additional hundreds of billions of dollars to deficit reduction. So that’s progress, but we’re going to need to do more.