ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:
In a surprise move President Obama brought out former President Clinton – ceding the White House podium – so that the 42nd president could offer his full throated endorsement of the tax cut compromise.
“I thought, given the fact that he presided over as good an economy as we've seen in our lifetimes, that it might useful for him to share some of his thoughts,” Obama, who stood beside the former president as he took over the podium for his opening remarks, then left (pleading he had to get to a holiday party at the White House) while the former president relished fielding questions from press.
“The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs and to minimize the chances that it will slip back,” former president Clinton said from the Brady Briefing Room, adding that if he were president this is what he would have done as well.
“We played political kabuki for a year, had two government shutdowns. We can't afford that now,” Clinton warned, “we cannot afford to have the kind of impasse that we had last time over a long period of time. We don't want to slip back into a recession. We got to keep this thing going and accelerate its pace. I think this is the best available option.”
President Clinton went point-by-point through the parts that he likes of the deal:
1. extending unemployment insurance benefits for an additional 13 months for approximately nine million Americans;
2. reducing the payroll tax by 2 percentage points
3. $ 3 billion in renewable energy tax credits added yesterday to win wavering Democrats
“So in my opinion, this is a good bill. And I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it,” Clinton said, “There's never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of a partisan, and we all see this differently.
But I really believe this will be a significant net plus for the country.”
The former president said this is a “much, much better” agreement that what would have been reached if they wanted until January when the Republicans were in control of the house
“So for whatever it's worth, that's what I think,” Clinton concluded.
“That’s worth a lot,” President Obama said.
After the current president excused himself, claiming he was keeping the First Lady waiting for their holiday party appearance, Clinton took questions.
“I don't believe so. I think — you know, I just respectfully disagree about that. I think that a lot of — look, a lot them are hurting now, and I get it,” Clinton said, “I personally believe this is a good deal, and the best he could have gotten under the circumstances. I just disagree. I understand why — people have a right to disagree with me, but I disagree. “
Clinton also said that he has “no idea” if his appearance at the podium today will help sway votes where their needed most now, among House Democrats.
“I don't know if I can influence anybody. Heck, I couldn't — you know, I'd — I'd go some places and the people campaigned for won, in some places the people I campaigned for lost. I don't know. All I can tell you is what I think.
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller