This time, Barack Obama didn’t face the cameras alone.
It was an almost jaunty president who brought a group of middle-class families to the White House for a televised address in which he declared that a last-minute tax deal was “within sight…but it’s not done.”
The optics were obvious, to show actual Americans who would be hit by a tax hike averaging $2,000 if Congress didn’t salvage a compromise.
The president, perhaps concerned about looking too dour lately, told jokes and bantered with the assembled citizens, which might have struck some onlookers as too frivolous given the stakes.
“I realize the last thing you want to hear on New Year’s Eve is a speech from me,” he said.
It seems that the talks between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have agreed to raise taxes on incomes above $400,000 or $450,000, extend unemployment insurance and limit increases in the estate tax.
But as Obama noted, the tentative package does not deal with deep automatic spending cuts, and that is what is holding up the process. The Democrats want to block those cuts for a year, and the Republicans are balking.
Obama said allowing the cutbacks to go forward would be “using an ax instead of a scalpel,” and he vowed again to protect Medicare and other middle-class programs.
He took a parting jab at Congress, saying it never did anything until the “last second.” The crowd laughed, but that truth hit close to home.
After the House approved the Senate's fiscal cliff deal late Tuesday night, President Obama sent a message to the next Congress, arguing for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. And he was clear about his position on the coming debt ceiling debate. 'We can't not pay bills,' he said.
But Howard Kurtz says it could prove a pyrrhic victory that could threaten his second-term agenda.
Abby Haglage peeks at the fiscal-cliff wish lists of Obama, Pelosi, Boehner, and more.
It was an ugly scramble—and leaves us facing yet another fiscal showdown before spring, says John Avlon.
The president’s budget battle is really a fight with 200 years of obstructionism and selfish greed. By Michael Tomasky.
Impress the relatives with tidbits from our guide on everything from the sequester to the supercommittee.
John Avlon on how our government turned to self-sabotage.
New polls shows that voters are ahead of politicians in understanding the necessity of reforming entitlement programs, writes Eleanor Clift.