Obama: I'm ready and willing to get deal

2012-12-22 08:05
US President Barack Obama. (AFP)

US President Barack Obama. (AFP)

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Washington - President Barack Obama issued a stern summons to congressional leaders to approve legislation before year's end to prevent tax increases on millions of middle class Americans and prevent an expiration of long-term unemployment benefits for the jobless that could hit the US economy hard.

His remarks on Friday capped the end of yet another frustrating week during which Obama's Democrats and opposition Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, were unable to reach an agreement on avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.

On Thursday, Boehner signaled that he was still open to talks with Obama but said he didn't know how the combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts would be avoided.

"How we get there, God only knows," he said.

Economists fear the combination of across-the-board tax increases and steep spending cuts scheduled to kick 1 January could deliver a blow to the US economy.

The president spoke at the end of a day in which stocks around the world tumbled and congressional leaders squabbled as the fiscal cliff drew implacably closer.

Obama insisted that he still wants a bill that requires the well-to-do to pay more. "Everybody's got to give a little bit in a sensible way" to prevent the economy from pitching over a recession-threatening fiscal cliff, he said.

He spoke after talking by phone with Boehner and meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"I still think we can get it done," Obama said as he struggled to pick up the pieces of weeks of failed negotiations and political manoeuvring.

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