Washington: The US President Barack Obama called the Congress in particular the opposition Republicans -- to salvage a fiscal cliff deal, that would preserve middle class tax cuts and avoid the imminent economic crisis if such a deal is not reached in next 10 days.
"We're only going to be able to do it together. We're going to have to find some common ground," Obama said in his address to the White House.
In the absence of a resolution to the fiscal cliff, the United States could plunge into a deep economic crisis with increase in income tax rates for the middle class.
"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. But we've only got 10 days to do it," he said.
"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," he said.
Obama said he wants 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," he said.
The US President said over the last few weeks he has been working with leaders of both parties on a proposal to get the deficit under control, avoid tax hikes on the middle class, and to make sure that they 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 the 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. And in terms of actual dollar amounts, we're not that far apart," Obama said.
"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," he said.
Referring to the deadline which expires in 10 days, Obama said in 10 days, under current law, tax rates are scheduled to rise on most Americans.
"Even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of agrees that tax rates shouldn't go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses," he said.
In the next few days, Obama said, he has asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for two 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," he said.
"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. It's that simple," he added.
Obama is scheduled to leave for Hawaii, his Christmas and New Year vacation, along with his family.
First Published: Saturday, December 22, 2012, 09:05