Obama on Fiscal Cliff: 'Agreement Within Sight'

The president says there are still issues left to resolve but is hopeful Congress can reach a deal.
9:32 | 12/31/12

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Transcript for Obama on Fiscal Cliff: 'Agreement Within Sight'
Now I realize. That the last thing. You want to hear on New Year's Eve. Is another speech for me. God but I don't need to talk about the progress that's being made. In congress today. For last few days leaders in both parties been working toward an agreement. That will prevent a middle class tax hike from hitting 98%. Of all Americans. Starting tomorrow. Preventing that tax hike has been my top -- Because last thing. Folks like the folks up here on this stage can afford right now is to pay an extra 2000 dollars in taxes next year. Middle class families can't afford it. Businesses can't afford it. Our economy can afford. Now today it appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year's tax hike. Is within sight. But is not done. There are still issues left to resolve. But we're hopeful that congress can get it done. But it's not -- And so. Part of the reason that I want to speak to all of you today. Is to make sure that we emphasize to congress -- that. Members. Of both parties understand that all across America this is a pressing concern. On people's minds. The potential agreement that's being talked about would not only make sure the taxes don't -- -- on middle class families. It also that would extend tax credits for families with children. It would extend our tuition tax credit that's helped millions of families pay for college. It would extend tax credits for clean energy companies that are creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It would extend unemployment insurance to two million Americans. Who are out there are still actively looking for job. I had to say that. Ever since I took office throughout the campaign. And over the last couple months my preference would have been to -- all these problems in the context of a larger agreement. A bigger deal a grand bargain what everyone -- call it. That solves our deficit problems in a balanced and responsible way that doesn't just deal with the taxes -- -- spending. In a balanced way so that we can put all this behind us it is focusing on. Roy and our economy. But -- this congress that was obviously a little too much to hope for at this time. It may be -- Can do what. In stages. We're gonna solve this problem instead in several steps. Last year 2011 we started reducing the deficit through one trillion dollars in spending cuts votes have already taken place. The agreement being worked on right now we're further reduce the deficit by asking the wealthiest. 2% of Americans to pay higher taxes for the first time in two decades. So that would add. Additional hundreds of billions dollars to deficit reduction. So that's progress. But we're gonna be doable. You know keep in mind -- just last month Republicans in congress that they would never agree to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. Obviously the agreement that's currently being discussed would raise those rates and raise them permanently. -- But but but keep in mind. We're gonna still have more work to do we still have deficits -- be dealt with we're still gonna have to. Think about how we put. Our economy on a long term trajectory of growth how we continue to make investments in things like education. Things like infrastructure. That help our economy grow. And keep in mind that. The threat of tax hikes going up is only one part of the so called fiscal cliff that are basement talking about. What we also have facing -- starting tomorrow. Are automatic spending cuts. That are scheduled to going to affect. And keep in mind that somebody's spending cuts. That congress. Has said it will automatically going to affect. Have an impact on our Defense Department. But they also have an impact on things like -- start. And so there some programs that are scheduled to be cut that. Were using. An -- instead of a scalp. May not always be the smartest cuts. And so -- is a piece of business that still has to be taken care. And I want to make clear. That any agreement we have to deal. Where news these automatic spending cuts that are being threatened for next month. Those also have to be balanced -- are my principles always been. Let's do things -- a balanced responsible way and that means the revenues have to be part of the equation and in turning off the sequester in the limiting these automatic spending cuts. As well spending cuts. Now the same is true for any future deficit agreement. Obviously. We're gonna have to do more reduce our debt and our deficit I'm willing to do more but it's gonna have to be balanced regrets -- a balanced responsible way for example. I'm willing to reduce our government's Medicare bills. But finding new ways to reduce the cost of health care in this country. That's something that we all should agree -- You know we want to make sure that Medicare is there for future generations. But the current trajectory of -- cost is going up so high. We've got to find ways to make sure that it's sustainable. But that kind of reform has to go hand in hand whipped -- more work to reform our tax code so that. Wealthy individuals. The biggest corporations can't take advantage of loopholes and deductions. That aren't available to most of the folks standing up here -- are available to most Americans. So there's still more work to be done. In the tax code to make it -- even as were also looking at how we can strengthen something like Medicare. Now if Republicans think that. I won't finish the job -- deficit reduction through spending cuts law and you hear that sometimes come from. -- -- after today we're just gonna try to. -- Only spending cuts down. Well -- spending. -- spending cuts -- There will hurt seniors. Or -- students. Or hurt middle class families. Without asking. Also. Equivalent sacrifice. From. Millionaires are. Companies with a -- -- lobbyists etc. if they think that's going to be the formula for how we solve this thing. The -- got another -- cup that's not how it's gonna work. We've got to do this -- balanced and responsible way and if we're gonna be serious about deficit reduction and debt reduction. Then. It's gonna have to be a matter shared sacrifice. At least as long as I'm president. And I'm gonna be present for the next four years -- Yeah. Half now for now -- most immediate priority is to stop. Taxes going up -- middle class families. Starting tomorrow. I think that is a modest. Goal that we can accomplish. Democrats and Republicans in congress have to get this done. But they're not there yet. They are close but they're not there yet and one thing we can count on with respect to this congress is that. If there's even 12 left before you have to do where you're supposed to do. They will use that last second. So. So as this point it looks like government -- -- here in DC. Its -- -- -- the dollar going to be hanging out in DC two. I -- come to your house. I don't want -- -- part. But the the people. Who are with me here today people who -- watching at home. They need are leaders in congress to succeed. They need just they need us all stay focused. On -- On politics. Not on. A special interests -- be focused on families. Students. Graham -- Folks -- Wear out their work and really really hard. And are just looking for a fair shot. And some reward for that artwork. They expect our leaders to succeed. On their behalf. -- -- and so keep the pressure on. Over the next twelve hours or so let's see if we get this thing done. And I thank you all if I don't see if I don't show up your house. A lot of wish everybody -- happy -- thank you very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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