Obama: ‘Let’s get to work’ to avert ‘fiscal cliff’

President Barack Obama holds up a pen as he delivers a statement on the "fiscal cliff" in the East Room of the White House in Washington, November 9. The...
President Barack Obama holds up a pen as he delivers a statement on the "fiscal cliff" in the East Room of the White House in Washington, November 9. The...
Kevin LaMarque/Reuters

A confident President Barack Obama, laying down his marker ahead of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations designed to avert the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending cuts, declared Friday that he won’t accept any deficit-reduction deal unless the rich start paying their fair share.

“I’m open to compromise,” Obama said during an appearance in the White House East Room. “But I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced. I’m not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit, while people like me, making over $250,000 aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes.”

He cited his re-election on Tuesday as proof that the American people have his back.

“This was a central question during the election,” Obama said in his first post-election comments on the economy. “It was debated over and over and over again. And on Tuesday night, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach.”

“So our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people.”

Obama said he invited congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week to start negotiations. Democrats have largely insisted that the top tax rate must go up from 35% back to its Clinton-era level of 39.6%.

Brandishing a pen, Obama said he was ready to sign a bill “right away” to extend the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98%. Both parties have said they support doing that, but Republicans have in the past said nobody gets a tax cut unless the richest taxpayers get a tax cut.

“I’m proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us,” House Speaker John Boehner said Friday. He said cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, known as entitlement programs, have to be part of the equation.

But with his hand strengthened by Tuesday’s win, the president showed no signs of backing down, ending with a favorite phrase of msnbc host Ed Schultz:

“You know, the American people understand that we’re going to have differences and disagreements in the months to come. They get that. But on Tuesday they said loud and clear that they won’t tolerate dysfunction, they won’t tolerate politicians who view compromise as a dirty word, not when so many Americans are still out of work, not when so many families and small business owners, are still struggling to pay the bills. What the American people are looking for is cooperation, they’re looking for consensus, they’re looking for common sense. Most of all, they want action. I intend to deliver for them in my second term, and I expect to find willing partners in both parties to make that happen. So let’s get to work.”

Obama: 'Let's get to work' to avert 'fiscal cliff'