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Obama Keeps Pressure on Congress to Reach Agreement

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Graham, appearing on Fox News, said chances are good that a deal on the fiscal cliff will be reached. Obama, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” put pressure on Congress to make a deal.

“What I’ve said is that in the Senate, we should go ahead and introduce legislation that would make sure middle class taxes stay where they are, and there should be an up or down vote,” Obama said. “Everybody should have a right to vote on that. You know, if Republicans don’t like it, they can vote no. But I actually think that there’s a majority of support for making sure that middle-class families are protected.”

Obama said there would likely be an economic price to pay if Congress fails to act. “I think business and investors are going to feel more negative about the economy next year,” the president said.

Given the disagreement over taxes, Obama said it’s unclear if a package to address the $110 billion in automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, can be passed before the cuts go into effect on Jan. 2.

“So far at least, Congress has not been able to get this stuff done,” Obama said when asked about sequestration. “Not because Democrats in Congress don’t want to go ahead and cooperate, but because I think it’s been very hard for Speaker Boehner and Republican Leader McConnell to accept the fact that taxes on the wealthiest Americans should go up a little bit as part of an overall deficit reduction package.”

Obama said he will continue to push for a balanced deficit reduction plan next year that focuses on bolstering the middle class and building up the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

He also said he intends to push for immigration reform and energy legislation.

Senators’ Outlook

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who appeared on Fox News, said chances are “exceedingly good” that a deal will be reached. “I think people don’t want to go over the cliff, if we can avoid it,” he said.

But Graham stressed that the package will do little to reduce the deficit.

“What have we accomplished? Political victory for president. ... He’s going get tax rate increases, maybe not at $250,000, but on upper-income Americans. And the sad news for the country is that we have accomplished very little in terms of not becoming Greece or getting out of debt; this deal wont affect the debt situation,” he said.

Graham warned that Republicans are looking at the debt ceiling as the next front of the battle over the deficit.

“I hope we’ll have the courage of our convictions when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling to fight for what we believe as Republicans,” the South Carolina senator said, adding that he wants significant entitlement reform.

Graham said he believes McConnell will to get at least 60 percent of the 47 Republican votes in the Senate to provide enough political cover for House Republicans to vote for the package.

“If McConnell can’t get 60 percent of us to vote for the deal, it will be hard for Boehner to get it through the House. And I want to vote for it even though I don’t like it because the country has a lot at stake here,” he said.

Others members appearing on the Sunday morning talks shows were also cautiously optimistic.

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