President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on December 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. / Getty Images
Updated 2:34 p.m. Eastern Time
President Obama on Wednesday called on Republicans in Congress to have a "sense of perspective" in the wake of the Newtown massacre and stop "finding ways to say no" to a deal on the "fiscal cliff."
"At some point there's got to be I think a recognition on the part of my Republican friends that, you know, take the deal," the president said, pointing to polling that shows that Americans agree with his position. "You know, they will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package; that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no as opposed to finding ways to say yes."
"And I don't know how much of that just has to do with, you know, it is very hard for them to say yes to me," he continued. "But, you know, at some point, you know, they've got to take me out of it and think about their voters and think about what's best for the country."
The president's comments came in response to reporters' questions after he announced a gun violence task force led by Vice President Joe Biden. He referenced the tragedy when asked if he was confident he will be able to reach a deal with House Speaker John Boehner, who leads a caucus that has been adamantly opposed to increasing tax rates.
"Sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me in part because they're more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate or challenges from the right. And, you know, cooperating with me may make them vulnerable," the president said of House Republicans. "You know, I recognize that. But, goodness, if -- if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective."
He continued: "And, you know, I would like to think that members of that -- that caucus would say to themselves, 'You know what? We disagree with the president on a whole bunch of things. We wish the other guy had won. We're going to fight him on a whole range of issues over the next four years. We think his philosophy is all screwed up. But, right now what the country needs is for us to compromise.'"
Asked if he was willing to move on the income threshold for tax increases, Mr. Obama said he would not get into specifics. He campaigned on allowing rates to increase on income over $250,000, but has offered a threshold of $400,000 in negotiations with Boehner. Mr. Obama on Wednesday issued a veto threat against the Republican "Plan B" that would set that threshold at $1 million.
Speaking after Mr. Obama, Boehner said the president's "offer of $1.3 trillion in revenues and $850 billion in spending reductions fails to meet the test that president promised the people: a balanced approach."
He said he hoped the president would "get serious soon about providing and working with us on a balanced approach." The House Speaker then said his "Plan B" would pass tomorrow.
"Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American, 99.8 percent of the American people," Boehner said. "Then the president will have a decision to make. He can call on the Senate Democrats to pass that bill or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history."
In his remarks, the president said his proposal and Boehner's proposal are "actually pretty close."
"I'm willing to compromise," said Mr. Obama."This is not a situation where I'm trying to, you know, rub their face in anything. I think anybody who looks at this objectively would say that coming off my election I have met them at least halfway in order to get something done for the country."
He went on to say that he will not negotiate with Republicans over the debt limit, which economists expect to again be reached early next year. "I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling," Mr. Obama said. "We're not going to play the same game that we saw happen in 2011, which was hugely destructive." He went on to say that "if you go to Wall Street, including talking to a whole bunch of folks who spent a lot of money trying to beat me, they would say it would be disastrous for us to use the debt ceiling as a cudgel to try to win political points on Capitol Hill."
Asked if America is "likely to go over the cliff," Mr. Obama responded, "there's no reason why we should." He said that he has been open to doing "some very tough things" to get to a deal - a possible reference to his openness to see the payroll tax cut expire and reductions in Social Security benefits.
Saying he has put forward a fair proposal, the president said that "[t]he fact that they haven't taken it, yet, is puzzling and I think, you know, a question that you're going to have to address to them."
"I've said I'm willing to make some cuts," he continued. "What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars. The idea that we would put our economy at risk because you can't bridge that cap doesn't make a lot of sense. So, I'm going to continue to talk to the speaker and the other leaders up in Congress, but ultimately they've got to do their job."