ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jake Tapper?
TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. President. I have a policy question, and a personal one. The policy question is, you talk about how the immediate goal is the Bush tax cuts and making sure that they don’t expire for those who earn under $200,000 — $250,000.
TAPPER: Republicans disagree with that strongly. They want all of the Bush tax cuts extended. Are you willing to compromise on that? Are you willing to negotiate at all — for instance, allow them to expire for everyone over $1 million? Where are you willing to budge on that? And the second one is, President Bush, when he went through a similar thing, came out and he said this was a thumpin’. You talked about how it was humbling — or you alluded to it…
TAPPER: … perhaps being humbling. And I’m wondering, when you — when you call your friends, like Congressman Perriello or Governor Strickland, and you see 19 state legislatures go to the other side, governorships in swing states, the Democratic Party setback, what does it feel like?
OBAMA: It feels bad.
OBAMA: You know, the toughest thing over the last couple of days is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve anymore, at least in the short term. And you mentioned — they’re just some terrific members of Congress who took really tough votes because they thought it was the right thing, even though they knew this could cause them political problems. And even though a lot of them came from really tough swing districts or majority-Republican districts. And — and the amount of courage that they showed and conviction that they showed is something that I — I — I admire so much, I can’t overstate it. And so there is a — not only sadness about seeing them go but there’s also a lot of questioning on my part in terms of, “Could I have done something differently or done something more so that those folks would still be here?”
It’s hard. And — and I take responsibility for it in a lot of ways.
I will tell you, they’ve been incredibly gracious when I have conversations with them. And what they’ve told me is, “You know, we don’t have regrets because I feel like we were doing the right thing.”
And, you know, they may be just saying that to make me feel better, which, again, is a sign of their character and their class.
And I hope a lot of them continue to pursue public service, because I think they’re terrific public servants.
With respect to the tax cut issue, my goal is to make sure that we don’t have a huge spike in taxes for middle-class families. Not only would that be a terrible burden on families who are already going through tough times, it would be bad for our economy.
It is very important that we’re not taking a whole bunch of money out of the system from people who are most likely to spend that money on, you know, goods, services, groceries — you know, buying a new winter coat for the kids.
That’s also why I think unemployment insurance is important. Not only is it the right thing to do for folks who are still looking for work and struggling in this really tough economy, but it’s the right thing to do for the economy as a whole.
So my goal is to sit down with Speaker-elect Boehner and Mitch McConnell, Harry and Nancy some time in the next few weeks and see where we can move forward in a way that, first of all, does no harm, that extends those tax cuts that are very important for middle-class families; also extends those provisions that are important to encourage businesses to invest and provide businesses some certainty over the next year or two.
And how that negotiation works itself out, I think it’s too early to say. But, you know, this is going to be one of my top priorities. And my hope is, is that given we all have an interest in growing the economy and encouraging job growth, that we’re not going to play brinkmanship but instead we’re going to act responsibly.
TAPPER: So you’re willing to negotiate?