Obama hails passage of “fiscal cliff” deal by Congress
"Thanks to the votes of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, I will sign a law that raises taxes on the wealthiest 2 per cent of Americans while preventing a middle class tax hike that could have sent the economy back into a recession and obviously had a severe impact on families all across America," Obama told the White House press corps.
The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives voted 257-167 late Tuesday night on the "fiscal-cliff" bill that was passed by the Senate in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Obama's address reflected on his experience during negotiations which the White House had with the Republican leadership in the Congress on avoiding a "fiscal cliff", for which he had to cut short his year-end vacation in Hawaii.
Shortly before mid-night, Obama left White House for Hawaii to join the First Lady and his two daughters for the rest of their annual vacation.
"Under this law, more than 98 per cent of Americans and 97 per cent of small business will not see their income taxes go up," he said.
"Millions of families will continue to receive tax credits to help raise their children and send them to college," he added.
Vice President Joe Biden, who played a key role in negotiating a deal with the Republicans, was standing by his side in the White House press room.
"Companies will continue to receive tax credits for the research that they do, the investments they make and the clean energy jobs that they create," Obama said.
"This law is one more step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy and broaden opportunity," he said, adding that the agreement further reduces the deficit by raising USD 620 billion in revenue from the wealthiest households.
"The fact is the deficit is still too high. And we're still investing too little in the things that we need for the economy to grow as fast as it should," Obama said.
Mindful of the legislative issues that lay ahead of him in the New Year and the bitter experiences of the past, Obama said: "The one thing that I think hopefully in the new year we'll focus on is seeing if we can put a package like this together with a little bit less drama, a little less brinkmanship, not scare the heck out of folks quite as much.
"Obama said Democrats and Republicans can come together to cut spending and raise revenue in a way that reduces deficit, protects middle class and provides ladders into the middle class for everybody who is willing to work hard.
"We can find a way to afford the investments that we need to grow and compete," he said.
"I want to make this point: as I've demonstrated throughout the past several weeks, I am very open to compromise. I agree with Democrats and Republicans that the aging population and the rising cost of health care makes Medicare the biggest contributor to our deficit.
"I believe we've got to find ways to reform that programme without hurting seniors, who count on it to survive," Obama said.
"While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up through the laws that they passed," Obama said.
"And today's agreement enshrines, I think, a principle into law that will remain in place as long as I am President. The deficit needs to be reduced in way that's balanced. Everyone pays their fair share. Everyone does their part. That's how our economy works best. That's how we grow," Obama said.
"People will remember back in 2011, the last time this course of action was threatened, our entire recovery was put at risk. Consumer confidence plunged, business investment plunged, growth dropped. We can't go down that path again," he said.