President Obama’s remarks on the fiscal cliff — delivered Dec. 21, 2012 (Transcript)

December 21, 2012

Here’s a transcript of President Obama’s remarks on the status of the fiscal cliff negotiations delivered on Dec. 21, 2012. Statements were being updated as the remarks unfolded.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with leaders of both parties to get our deficit under control, avoid tax cuts -- or avoid tax hikes on the middle class, and to make sure that we can spur jobs and economic growth -- a balanced proposal that cuts spending, but also asks the wealthiest Americans to pay more, a proposal that will strengthen the middle class over the long haul, and grow our economy over the long haul.

During the course of these negotiations, I offered to compromise with Republicans in Congress. I met them halfway on taxes and I met them more than halfway on spending. In terms of actual dollar amounts, we’re not that far apart.

As of today, I am still ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done. I still believe that reducing our deficit is the right thing to do for the long-term health of our economy and the confidence of our businesses. I remain committed to working towards that goal, whether it happens all at once or whether it happens in several different steps.


The impact of tax increases on taxpayers (Karen Yourish and Patterson Clark/The Washington Post)

But in 10 days, we face a deadline. In 10 days, under current law, tax rates are scheduled to rise on most Americans. And even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us, every single one of us, agrees that tax rates shouldn’t go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses.

Every member of Congress believes that, every Democrat, every Republican. So there is absolutely no reason -- none -- not to protect these Americans from a tax hike. At the very least, let’s agree right now on what we already agree on. Let’s get that done.

I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid. In the next few days, I’ve asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That’s an achievable goal that can get done in 10 days.

Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers, and I will immediately sign that legislation into law before January 1st of next year.

OBAMA: It’s that simple.

Averting this middle class tax hike is not a Democratic or Republican responsibility. With their votes, the American people have determined that governing is a shared responsibility between both parties.

In this Congress, laws can only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. And that means nobody gets 100 percent of what they want. Everybody gotta give a little bit in a sensible way. We move forward together, or we do not move forward and all.

So, as we leave town for a few days to be with our families for the holidays, I hope it gives everybody some perspective. Everybody can cool off. Everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, Sing -- sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones.

And then I’d ask members of Congress, while they’re back home, to think about that, think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here. Think about the hardship that so many Americans endure if Congress does nothing at all.

Just as our economy is really starting to recover, and we’re starting to see optimistic signs. And we’ve seen actually some upside statistics from a whole range of areas, including housing. Now is not the time for more self-inflicted wounds, certainly not those coming from Washington.

And there is so much to be done on jobs, and on incomes, education, and energy. We are a week away from one of the worst tragedies in memory. So we’ve got work to do on gun safety, host of other issues.

OBAMA: These are all challenges that we can meet. They’re all challenges that we have to meet if we want our kids to grow up in an America that’s full of opportunity and possibility, as much opportunity and possibility as the America that our parents and our grandparents left for us.

But we’re only going to be able to do it together. We’re gonna have to find some common ground. And the challenge that we’ve got right now is that the American people are a lot more sensible and a lot more thoughtful, and much more willing to compromise and give and sacrifice and act responsibly than their elected representatives are.

And that’s a problem. There’s a mismatch right now between how everybody else is thinking about these problems, Democrats and Republicans, outside of this town and how folks are operating here. And we’ve just got to get that aligned, and we’ve only got 10 days to do it.

So I hope that every member of Congress is thinking about that. Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want. And this is not simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who doesn’t.

There are real-world consequences to what we do here. And I want next year to be a year of strong economic growth. I want next year to be a year in which more jobs are created and more businesses are started, and we’re making progress on all the challenges that we have out there -- some of which, by the way, we don’t have as much control over as we have in terms of just shaping a sensible budget. This is something within our capacity to solve. It doesn’t take that much work. We just have to do the right thing.

So call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done.

And with that I want to wish every American a merry Christmas.

And, you know, because we didn’t get this done I will see you next week. All right.

(CROSSTALK)

END

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