President Obama today declared there would be no deal to avert the looming fiscal cliff unless Republicans agree to raise rates on the top 2 percent of income-earners.
"If we're going to raise revenues that are sufficient to balance with the very tough cuts that we've already made and the further reforms in entitlements that I'm prepared to make, that we're going to have to see the rates on the top 2 percent go up. And we're not going to be able to get a deal without it," he told Bloomberg News in his first interview since the election.
"It's not me being stubborn. It's not me being partisan. It's just a matter of math," he added.
The president did, however, signal some flexibility on his campaign pledge to return tax rates on the top earners to 39.6 percent, which is what they were under former President Clinton.
"I recognize I'm not going to get 100 percent," Obama said. "But what I'm not going to do is to agree to a plan in which we have some revenue that is vague and potentially comes out of the pockets of middle-class families in exchange for some very specific and tough entitlement cuts that would affect seniors or other folks who are vulnerable. That's not the kind of balanced plan that I think would be good for growth, good for the economy, or good for the American people."
The day after House Republicans sent the president a $2.2 trillion offer, the president said "unfortunately, the Speaker's proposal right now is still out of balance."
The Republican proposal called for $800 billion in new revenue from closing loopholes and deductions, but would not raise tax rates.
Obama said a comprehensive reform package will not be agreed on in the next two weeks, but expressed confidence a deal can be reached on the middle-class tax cuts.
"What I've suggested is, let's essentially put a down payment. On taxes, let's let tax rates on the upper-income folks go up," he said. "And then let's set up a process with a time certain, at the end of 2013 or the fall of 2013, where we work on tax reform, we look at what loopholes and deductions both Democrats and Republicans are willing to close, and it's possible that we may be able to lower rates by broadening the base at that point. And I'm happy to work with them."
-Mary Bruce and Jake Tapper