ARLINGTON, Va. - Vice President Joe Biden took seven middle-class taxpayers to lunch at a diner in suburban northern Virginia today, highlighting their concern about the looming tax hike that could hit at the end of the month.
"This is no time to add any additional burden for middle-class people," Biden said, seated with his guests at a table after the meal had been cleared.
"It would take 15 minutes from the time the decision was made by the speaker of the House to pass and make permanent a middle-class tax cut," he said. "The president would probably have me sprint up to the Hill to bring the bill down and to sign it.
"It can be done like that," he said, with a snap of his fingers.
The White House has been pressuring lawmakers to enact a tax-cut extension immediately for 98 percent of Americans - individuals earning less than $200,000 a year and families earning less than $250,000 a year - a move that would refocus the "fiscal cliff" debate on top tax rates, entitlement spending and the debt ceiling.
Republicans oppose decoupling the middle-income tax cuts from the upper-income cuts, however, preferring to negotiate on an entire package deal.
Negotiations to avert the cliff have stalled over the administration's insistence top rates must rise and power to raise the debt ceiling must shift to the White House.
"There are two irreducible minimum requirements for us," Biden reiterated today, though he noted how much rates could rise is "negotiable."
"I'm an optimistic [person], genetically," Biden said, when asked for his outlook on having a deal by Dec. 31.
Earlier in the lunch, Biden also commented on today's jobs report, saying, "I think we have turned the corner" on the economy.
"It's undeniable the trajectory is positive," he said.