Republicans attacked President Barack Obama on Monday for his public comments on talks to avoid the looming fiscal cliff — saying the president’s remarks may have hurt prospects for a deal.
“I just listened to the president and my heart is still pounding,” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said on the Senate floor minutes after Obama called on Congress to work to complete an agreement.
Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are in talks on a deal to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect on Jan. 2.
Corker said Obama’s speech was part of a “pep rally” and warned that it might cost him votes when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives votes on any fiscal cliff deal, the Hill reports.
“I was very disappointed to hear what the president had to say in front of a pep rally," Corker said. “I know the president has fun heckling Congress, but I think he probably lost a number of votes with this.”
At the White House before a group identified as “middle-class taxpayers,” Obama made it clear that any future bids to reduce the deficit would have to come both from revenue increases and spending cuts "at least as long as I'm president, and I'm going to be president for the next four years, I hope."
He said Republicans seem to think deficit reduction will come through spending cuts alone. "If they think that is the formula for how we solve this thing, they have got another thing coming," Obama said. That’s not how it’s going to work."
The audience repeatedly applauded as Obama criticized Congress, saying it always seems to make decisions at the last possible moment.
But his criticism did not sit well with Corker and other GOP members. Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Obama was essentially mocking Republicans amid the sensitive negotiations.
"What did the President of the United States just do?" the 2008 presidential candidate asked. "He sent a message of confrontation to Republicans.
"I guess I have to wonder — and I think the American people have to wonder — whether the president really wants this issue resolved, or is it to his short-term political benefit to go over the cliff?"
The president’s remarks would "clearly antagonize" House Republicans, McCain said. The GOP controls the House.
"What he was saying is … take it or leave it," McCain said. "That's not the way presidents should lead."
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