WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and congressional lawmakers are going home for the holidays without solving the fiscal cliff, the president announced Friday from the White House briefing room.
Expressing frustration with Republicans for failing to agree to a compromise in which he moved "at least halfway," Obama advocated for a pared-down agreement to avert some of the tax increases on the middle class.
“I am still ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done," he said, but expressed openness to solving the fiscal cliff "in several different steps.” Obama said he wanted the new proposal to tackle middle class tax rates, expiring unemployment insurance, and a few other measures, but hinted that it would leave in place the mandatory spending cuts forced by the failure of the super committee last year.
Obama said he has asked congressional leaders and their staffs to draw up a bill that can be taken up after Christmas and signed into law by January 1, 2013, saying he hoped everyone uses the holiday to "cool off, drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing Christmas carols.”
"Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually think we can get it done," Obama added, trying to reassure increasingly-concerned financial markets. Obama said that he met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and spoke with Speaker of the House John Boehner about Friday afternoon to try to hammer out a path forward with negotiations stalled and the Republican's "Plan B" measure never getting off the ground.
"The American people are a lot more sensible and a lot more thoughtful than their elected representatives are," Obama said — the implicit target being House Republicans. "That's a problem."
A spokesman for Boehner put the onus for reaching a deal on Obama and Senate Democrats.
“Though the President has failed to offer any solution that passes the test of balance, we remain hopeful he is finally ready to get serious about averting the fiscal cliff," spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement. "The House has already acted to stop all of the looming tax hikes and replace the automatic defense cuts. It is time for the Democratic-run Senate to act, and that is what the Speaker told the President tonight. Speaker Boehner will return to Washington following the holiday, ready to find a solution that can pass both houses of Congress.”
The House and Senate are adjourning for a long holiday weekend Friday, and Obama is will leave later in the evening to make a trip to be with his family in Hawaii.
"Because we didn’t get this done, I’ll see you next week," Obama said, before leaving the podium without answering questions.