President Barack Obama is taking his economic message to the grassroots. Most recently, he gave interviews to local television anchors in Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Sacramento in hopes of swaying legislators by generating pressure from the voters back home. The interviews aired Thursday evening in the local markets.
Obama said Americans "have good reason to be skeptical" that their political leaders in Washington can work out a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff in January, but he said congressional Republicans would be to blame if no deal can be reached. As I reported earlier this week, Obama is hoping that such interviews generate pressure locally on balky members of Congress who haven't signed onto the administration's budget priorities, which are centered on tax increases for the rich. It's part of Obama's use of the bully pulpit to push the Republicans toward a compromise.
"I've already cut a trillion dollars in spending," Obama told WCCO of Minneapolis. "I'm willing to do a lot more cuts in spending. We also need to pair it up with a little more revenue ... So the big problem right now is that the Republicans in the House are resistant to the idea of the wealthiest Americans paying higher tax rates."
And Obama told WPVI of Philadelphia: "I think that what we've seen for too long in Washington is the tendency for politicians to put their jobs ahead of the jobs of the American people, to think about the next election instead of the next generation. So what I've said is, Job Number One for Congress, and this is an area where we shouldn't have to compromise because everybody says they agree, let's extend tax cuts for middle-class families, for incomes below $250,000, and that will cover 98 percent of Americans. They would know that next year their taxes would not go up one single dime."
Still, Obama expressed confidence that, in the end, he will strike a deal with the GOP and avoid the fiscal cliff. This is a reference to the tax hikes and massive spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect starting January 1 unless the president and Congress agree on legislation to stop them.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.