President Obama on Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: 'Let's Not Miss This Deadline'

The president calls congressional leaders to come to an agreement before new year.
10:32 | 12/28/12

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Transcript for President Obama on Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: 'Let's Not Miss This Deadline'
This is NB BC news special report. Good afternoon I'm David Muir here at ABC news headquarters in New York we're following breaking news out of Washington at this hour the president meeting just a short time ago. With leaders of congress from the senate from the house. Just four days left until that fiscal cliff until taxes go up for all Americans. The president is expected to speak moments from now our chief White House correspondent John Karl there in the briefing room and John I was struck by the email you send. Moments ago from your White House source saying the meeting was quote. Not discouraging this is something we haven't heard so far. Yet that's incredible optimism given where we -- In fact the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell top Republican in the senate just a short while ago said he is hopeful and optimistic. They can at least come up with a small -- something to prevent some of these tax increases to -- -- -- at least for the middle class while also looking for unemployment benefits to be extended. So there is a movement of the next 24 hours the top Democrat and Republican in the senate who work at crafting that deal but I gotta tell you David. This will be a small deal will put off some of the bigger challenges -- -- early in the year for instance it won't deal with the fact. The government is about to hit the limit on how much money it can borrow once again raising the possibility that the US government could default on its debts -- progress yes. But moderate progress. Jon Karl thinks there in the briefing room were expecting to hear from the president short time from now some viewers tweeting me just today that they don't want a small deal. They want a real deal it'll be into the -- -- the American people respond if in fact it is a small deal if they come up with. The next 24 to 48 hours will be crucial as we know members of the house come back this weekend on Sunday. Members of the senate are back in Washington there's been a lot of criticism growing anger in this country about lawmakers going home for the holiday with -- deal on this fiscal cliff. As -- mentioned moments ago for days now until those tax cuts expire. Meaning tax rates taxes going up for all Americans cuts to federal programs across the board. And with the president has been trying to do his team is to preserve tax cuts. On most Americans while right raising them on wealthier Americans that's been a real sticking point with Republicans. But perhaps they talked about this just a short time ago and as far as -- deep cuts and federal programs there's been debate over how deep those cuts should be where they can. Find some common ground and jumped from your view as we await the president here. And that are coming out Havel talked in a moment here's President Obama speaking to the -- Good afternoon everybody and. For the past couple months I've been working with leaders of both parties to try and forge an agreement. It would grow our economy and shrink the deficit. Balanced plan that would cut spending a responsible way. But also ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more and above all protect our middle class and everybody's striving to get into the middle class. I still want to get this done. It's the right thing to do for families. For businesses and for our entire economy. But. The hour for immediate action is here. It is now. We're now the point where in just four days every American's tax rates are scheduled to go by -- Every American's paycheck. Will get. Considerably smaller. And that would be the wrong thing to do. For our economy would be bad for middle class families. And it would be bad for business is that this -- depend on. Families spend. Fortunately congress can prevent it from happening if they act right now. I just had a good and constructive discussion here at the white house with the senate and house leadership about how to prevent. This tax hike on middle class and I'm optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can passed both houses in time. The senators Reid and McConnell. Are working on such an agreement. As we speak. But. If an agreement isn't reached in time. Between senator Reid. And senator McConnell that I will urge senator Reid to bring it to the floor a basic package for an up or down vote. When the protects the middle class from an income tax hike. Extends the vital lifeline unemployment insurance to two million Americans looking for a job. And lays the ground work for future cooperation. -- more economic growth. And -- -- reduction. I'd like -- here you. I believe such proposal could passed both houses with the bipartisan majorities. As long as those leaders allow -- to actually come to April. If -- members of the house or the senate want to vote no they can't. What we should let everybody vote. That's the way this is supposed to work if you can get a majority in the house and get a majority in the senate and we -- bill passed a bill. So the American people are watching what we do here. Obviously their patience. Is already -- this is deja Vu all over again. America wonders why it is that in this town for some reason you can't get stuff done. In an organized. Timetable. -- -- living always have to wait the last minute held were now at the last minute. And the American people are not gonna have any patience for a politically self inflicted wound to our economy. Not right now. The economy is growing but sustaining that friend is going to require elected officials to do their jobs. The housing market is recovering but that could be impacted. If folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest its been since 2000 tonight. But already you're seeing businesses and consumers start to hold back. Because. Of the dysfunction that they -- in Washington. Economists. Business leaders. All think there were poised to grow in 2013. As long as politics in Washington. Don't get in the way of America's progress. So we've got to get this -- As want to repeat. We had a constructive meeting today. Senators Reid and McConnell are discussing a potential agreement. Where we get a bipartisan. Bill out of the senate forward in the house and Donna timely fashion so that we met. The December 31 deadline. But given how things have been working in this town. We always have to wait and see until it actually happens. The one thing the American people should not have to wait and see is some sort of action so if we don't see an agreement. Between the two leaders in the senate. I expect. A bill to go on the floor and -- asked senator -- to do this put a bill on the floor. That make sure that taxes on middle class families don't go up. That unemployment insurance is still available for two million people. And that lays the ground work been for additional. Deficit reduction and economic growth steps that we can take in the new year but let's not miss this deadline that the bare minimum that we should be able to get done. And it shouldn't be that hard since Democrats and Republicans both say they don't want to see. Taxes go up on middle class families. I just have to repeat. You know. Outside of Washington nobody understands how it is that this seems to be a repeat pattern over and over it. Ordinary folks they do their jobs. They meet deadlines. They sit down and -- discuss things -- -- Things happen. If their disagreements they -- through the disagreements. The notion -- our elected leadership can't do the same thing is mind boggling to. And is to stop. So. I'm modestly optimistic that -- agreement can be achieved. Nobody's gonna get a 100% what they want. Well let's make sure. That middle class families in the American economy and in fact the world economy aren't adversely impacted because. People can do their jobs. Thank you very much -- present. President Obama leading -- the briefing room there are saying the American people are watching what we do -- the hour for immediate action is here. He called the meeting with house leaders senate leaders good and constructive late today at the White House and our chief White House correspondent John Karl there in the briefing room. John a lot of people are going to be talking about this bare minimum that he spoke -- that if they don't come up with an agreement. He wants to bare minimum to be voted on on the senate floor which would do extend tax cuts for the middle class extend unemployment insurance benefits. For people without jobs right now leaving the rest as he put it to debate down the road John what do you make of the bare minimum. If this agreement doesn't happen he says he'll force that -- expect a bill on the senate floor. Well -- what's significant here is what's not being went on even if they can pull this off in the next few days and it will not be easy David. That we're talking about no significant spending cuts and nothing to address the deficit issue and nothing to address the fact that the debt ceiling is about to be had. But even this bare minimum the president was just urging action on -- is going to be tough that the real. He is if -- if McConnell and Reid the top Democrat and top Republican senate can come to agreement if they can't come to agreement even on that fallback plan. The possibility of the president getting through his plan exactly what he wanted for the house and the senate by the end of the year I would say is essentially nonexistent and John realistically as you just point out he gets a bill loaded on in the senate then where does it go from there. Right -- you have a Republican controlled house the only way this can happen is -- bipartisan support that's why the most important. Period right now is the next 24 hours when Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid will be trying to come up with some kind of an agreement again that bare minimum to at least. Guarantee that tax rates don't go up for everybody in just -- All right our chief White House correspondent John Karl there in the briefing room you've heard the president there. Called a constructive meeting reasonably optimistic that lawmakers in Washington can come up with a plan though he did say ordinary Americans. Are wondering why -- -- comes it is to the eleventh hour and he's right. Given the comments we heard from so many of our viewers today.

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

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