Wednesday, December 19

President Obama's Statement on Preventing Gun Violence (Transcript) Part II

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President Obama's Statement on Preventing Gun Violence
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

Part II

Q    Haven’t you betrayed some of the voters who supported you in the election by changing your positions on who should get a tax increase and by including Social Security benefits now in this mix?  And more broadly, there seems to be a deepening sense that negotiations aren't going very well right now.  Can you give us a candid update?  Are we likely to go over the cliff?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, there's no reason why we should.  Remember what I said during the campaign.  I thought that it was important for us to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way.  I said it was important for us to make sure that millionaires and billionaires paid their fair share.  I said that we were going to have to make some tough cuts, some tough decisions on the spending side, but what I wouldn't do was hurt vulnerable families only to pay for a tax cut for somebody like me.  And what I said was that the ultimate package would involve a balance of spending cuts and tax increases.  
That's exactly what I've put forward.  What I've said is, is that in order to arrive at a compromise, I am prepared to do some very tough things -- some things that some Democrats don't want to see and probably there are a few Republicans who don't want to see either.  But the only way that we're going to be able to stabilize the economy, make sure we've got a platform for long-term economic growth, that we get our deficits under control and we make sure that middle-class families are protected is if we come up with something that members of both parties in Congress can support.  
And that's the plan that I've put forward.  I have gone at least halfway in meeting some of the Republicans' concerns, recognizing that even though we campaigned on these issues, even though the majority of Americans agree with me that we should be raising taxes on the wealthiest few as a means of reducing the deficit, I have also said that I'm willing to identify some spending cuts that make sense. 
And, frankly, up until about a couple of days ago, if you looked at it, the Republicans in the House and Speaker Boehner I think were in a position to say, we've gotten a fair deal.  The fact that they haven't taken it yet is puzzling and I think a question that you're going to have to address to them.  
I remain optimistic, though, because if you look at what the Speaker has proposed, he's conceded that income tax rates should go up -- except right now he only wants to have them go up for millionaires.  If you're making $900,000, somehow he thinks that you can't afford to pay a little more in taxes.  But the principle that rates are going to need to go up he's conceded.
I've said I'm willing to make some cuts.  What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars.  The idea that we would put our economy at risk because you can't bridge that gap doesn’t make a lot of sense.  
So I'm going to continue to talk to the Speaker and the other leaders up in Congress.  But, ultimately, they've got to do their job.  Right now their job is to make sure that middle-class taxes do not go up and that we have a balanced, responsible package of deficit reduction.
It is there for all to see.  It is a deal that can get done. But it is not going to be -- it cannot be done if every side wants 100 percent.  And part of what voters were looking for is some compromise up here.  That’s what folks want.  They understand that they're not going to get 100 percent of what they want.  And for some reason, that message has not yet taken up on Capitol Hill. 
And when you think about what we've gone through over the last couple of months -- a devastating hurricane, and now one of the worst tragedies in our memory -- the country deserves folks to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good, and not tangle themselves up in a whole bunch of ideological positions that don’t make much sense.
So I remain not only open to conversations, but I remain eager to get something done.  I'd like to get it done before Christmas.  There's been a lot of posturing up on Capitol Hill, instead of just going ahead and getting stuff done.  And we've been wasting a lot of time.  It is the right thing to do.  I'm prepared to get it done.  But they're going to have to go ahead and make some adjustments. 
And I'll just give you one other example.  The Speaker now is proposing what he calls plan B.  So he says, well, this would raise taxes only on folks making a million dollars or more.  What that means is an average of a $50,000 tax break for every millionaire out there, at the same time as we're not providing unemployment insurance for 2 million people who are still out there looking for work.  It actually means a tax increase for millions of working families across the country at the same time as folks like me would be getting a tax break.  That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go.  
And so my hope is, is that the Speaker and his caucus, in conjunction with the other legislative leaders up there, can find a way to make sure that middle-class families don’t see their taxes go up on January 1st; that we make sure that those things that middle-class families count on like tax credits for college, or making sure that they’re getting some help when it comes to raising their kids through things like the child tax credit, that that gets done; and that we have a balanced package for deficit reduction, which is exactly what I’ve put forward.
Q    Will you give more ground if you need to, or are you done?
THE PRESIDENT:  If you look at the package that I put forward, it is a balanced package by any definition.  We have put forward real cuts in spending that are hard to do, in every category.  And by any measure, by any traditional calculation, by the measures that Republicans themselves have used in the past, this would be as large a piece of deficit reduction as we’ve seen in the last 20 years.  And if you combine that with the increased revenue from the wealthy paying a little bit more, then you actually have something that would stabilize our deficit and debt for a decade -- for 10 years.  
Now, the notion that we would not do that, but instead the Speaker would run a play that keeps tax cuts for folks making $500,000 or $700,000 or $800,000 or $900,000 a year, and gives more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, and raises taxes on middle-class families, and then has no cuts in it -- which is what he says he wants -- doesn’t make much sense.
I mean, let’s just think about the logic for a second.  They’re thinking about voting for raising taxes at least on folks over a million, which they say they don’t want to do, but they’re going to reject spending cuts that they say they do want to do.  That defies logic.  There’s no explanation for that.  
I think that any objective person out there looking would say that we’ve put forward a very balanced plan and it’s time for us to go ahead and get it done.  That’s what the country needs right now.  Because I think folks have been through some wrenching times, we’re still recovering from a very tough recession, and what they’re hoping for is a sense of stability, focus, compromise, common sense over the next couple of years.  And I think we can provide it.  But this is a good test for them. 
Carol Lee. 
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Just to follow on Ben's question, what is your next move?  Are we in a position now where you're just waiting for the Speaker to make a move?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I'm going to reach out to all the leaders involved over the next couple of days and find out what is it that's holding this thing up.  What is holding it up?  If the argument from Republicans is we haven't done enough spending cuts, that argument is not going to fly because we've got close to a trillion dollars of spending cuts.  And when you add interest, then it's more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts.  
If the argument is that they can't do -- they can't increase tax rates on folks making $700,000 or $800,000 a year, that's not a persuasive argument to me and it's certainly not a persuasive argument to the American people.  
It may be that members of their caucus haven't looked at exactly what we've proposed.  It may be that if we provide more information or there's greater specificity or we work through some of their concerns, that we can get some movement then.  
But the fact of the matter is, is that what would violate my commitment to voters is if I ended up agreeing to a plan that put more of the burden on middle-class families and less of a burden on the wealthy in an effort to reduce our deficit.  That's not something I'm going to do.  What would violate my commitment to voters would be to put forward a plan that makes it harder for young people to go to college, that makes it harder for a family with a disabled kid to care for that kid.  
And there's a threshold that you reach where the balance tips, even in making compromises that are required to get something done in this town, where you are hurting people in order to give another advantage to folks who don't need help.  And we had an extensive debate about this for a year.  And not only does the majority of the American people agree with me, about half of Republican voters agree with me on this.  
So at some point, there's got to be I think a recognition on the part of my Republican friends that -- take the deal.  They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package; that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them.  They should be proud of it.  But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes.  
And I don’t know how much of that just has to do with -- it is very hard for them to say yes to me.  But at some point, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters, and think about what’s best for the country.  And if they do that -- if they’re not worried about who’s winning and who’s losing, did they score a point on the President, did they extract that last little concession, did they force him to do something he really doesn’t want to do just for the heck of it, and they focus on actually what’s good for the country, I actually think we can get this done.
Q    You mentioned the $700,000 and $800,000.  Are you willing to move on income level and are there specific things that you would do --

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