Washington: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he is open to compromise and new ideas in fiscal cliff talks and insisted that higher taxes for the wealthy had to be a part of any deal on averting it.
"We cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy," Obama said adressing the press for the first time since his re-elction.
He expressed confidence that he and Congress can reach an agreement that avoids a so-called "fiscal cliff" on January 1.
"We face a clear deadline that requires us to make some big decision on jobs, taxes, and deficits by the end of the year... As I've said before, I'm open to compromise and I'm open to new ideas," he said at a press conference.
He said tax breaks for middle class families should stay in place.
"let's also then commit ourselves to the broader package of deficit reduction that includes entitlement changes and it includes potentially tax reform.
"It want a big deal. I want a comprehensive deal."
Obama used the press conference to promise a better term as a President, particularly on advancing the cause of strengthening the middle class and improving the economy," he said reflecting on his first term.
"We take that responsibility very seriously. I take that responsibility very seriously. And I hope and intend to be an even better President in the second term than I was in the first," Obama said.
"I've got a lot of good relationships with folks both in the House and the Senate. I have a lot of relationships on both sides of the aisle. It hasn't always manifested itself in the kind of agreements that I'd like to see between Democrats and Republicans," he said.
He said he does not exempt himself from the need for self-reflection and the need to strike more agreements.
In his opening remarks, Obama said the economy is still recovering from a very deep and damaging crisis and thus his top priority would be jobs and growth.
"We've got to build on the progress that we've made, because this nation succeeds when we've got a growing, thriving middle class," he said.
He once again stressed that his administration's focus would be "rewarding manufacturers and small businesses that create jobs here, not overseas; and providing more Americans the chance to earn the skills that businesses are looking for".
On the fiscal cliff, he said: "The most important step we can take right now -- I think the foundation for a deal that helps the economy, creates jobs, gives consumers certainty, which means gives businesses confidence that they're going to have consumers during the holiday season -- is if we right away say 98 percent of Americans are not going to see their taxes go up; 97 percent of small businesses are not going to see their taxes go up," he said.
"If we get that in place, we are actually removing half of the fiscal cliff.
"But what I'm not going to do is to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two per cent that we can't afford, and according to economists, will have the least positive impact on our economy," Obama said.
First Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012, 08:53