Just in case lawmakers were not feeling enough pressure to come up with a fiscal cliff deal this weekend, President Obama made it clear the ball was in their court during a taped Meet the Press appearance that was broadcast Sunday morning. In his second appearance on the NBC show since becoming president, Obama made it clear Americans would have one group of people to blame if they see taxes go up and unemployment benefits disappear in 2013: Republicans.
"They say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they're behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected," Obama said. "That seems to be their only overriding, unifying theme." (Watch video of the interview after the jump.)
In a sign that Republicans may be coming to accept they’ll have to eventually come around, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted Obama would get a “political victory” out of the fiscal cliff, points out Politico. “Hats off to the president,” Graham said on Fox News. “He stood his ground. He’s going to get tax rate increases.”
The message Obama was trying to send in the interview was clear: I’m the reasonable negotiator, willing to compromise, points out the Wall Street Journal. Even though Obama had said on Friday he was “modestly optimistic” that a deal would be reached, “we don’t yet see an agreement,” he told NBC’s David Gregory. Obama said he still holds out hope that “over the next 48 hours … people recognize that, regardless of partisan differences, our top priority has to be to make sure that taxes on middle-class families do not go up. That would hurt our economy badly.” The president emphasized that failing to reach a deal before the new year would “obviously … have an adverse reaction in the markets.”
President Obama emphasized that if lawmakers fail to come to an agreement, Democrats would put forward a bill to protect “middle-class families” from the tax increase. “Republicans will have to decide if they’re going to block it, which will mean that middle class taxes do go up,” Obama said. “I don’t think they would want to do that politically, but they may end up doing it.” If that doesn’t pass then Democrats will introduce a bill on the first day of the new congress “to cut taxes on middle-class families.”