With just one day remaining for lawmakers to stitch together a deal on the fiscal cliff before the Jan. 1 deadline, President Obama made a rare Sunday talk show appearance on Meet the Press to call out Republican inaction in Congress.
“We have been talking to the Republicans ever since the election was over,” Obama told host David Gregory. “They have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers.”
The president sat down with Gregory Saturday afternoon after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called on representatives to return to Capitol Hill this weekend and convene for a rare Sunday session. Lawmakers will have less than 30 hours to draw up a deal, and though the president said he had “negotiated in good faith” with Speaker Boehner, Obama’s optimism from his press conference at the end of the week did not seem to change.
“I was modestly optimistic yesterday, but we don’t yet see an agreement and now the pressure is on Congress to produce,” Obama said.
In drawing on his campaign pitch on taxes to the wealthy, Obama took his victory as a signal to Congress that Americans felt it fair to shift tax burdens to the wealthy. But his efforts to move “more than halfway in order to achieve a grand bargain” he said were not matched. Obama said Republicans were to blame for the stagnant negotiations in how Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been unable, or unwilling, to stomach tax increases for the wealthiest of Americans.
“At a certain point it is very important for Republicans in Congress to be willing to say ‘we understand we’re not going to get 100%, we are willing to compromise in a serious way in order to solve problems,’ as opposed to worrying about the next election,” he said.
Boehner responded to Obama’s interview Sunday, saying the president is the one at fault.
“Americans elected President Obama to lead, not cast blame,” Boehner said in a statement. “The president’s comments today are ironic, as a recurring theme of our negotiations was his unwillingness to agree to anything that would require him to stand up to his own party.”
Obama praised his own willingness to reach a compromise to the extent that he touted turning off members of his own party in order to strike a deal. Just a week before Christmas, the president presented a counter-offer that he said was “highly unpopular with Democrats” which would include a “chained CIP” alternative measure of inflation on Social Security benefits.
“The offers that I’ve made for them have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me,” Obama said of the Republican leadership. “I offered to make some significant changes to our entitlement programs to reduce the deficit.”