As President Barack Obama cut short a Christmas vacation to resume talks to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of automatic year-end tax hikes and spending cuts, the White House on Wednesday called on congressional Republicans not to stand in the way of a resolution in the U.S. Congress.
“What we need is for the Senate Minority Leader not to block a vote and for Boehner to allow a vote,” a White House official told ABC News. “The hits from our economy are not coming from outside factors they’re coming from Congressional stupidity."
Obama is seeking a stripped down deal to prevent tax rates from rising on all but the wealthiest Americans and to stop steep across-the-board spending cuts.
The White House last week proposed a broader package that would have let tax rates stay low for those making up to $400,000, a compromise from the president's previous rate hike threshold of $250,000.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner was unimpressed with the offer and sought unsuccessfully to push his own proposal through Congress, but members of his own Republican Party balked at rate hikes of any kind. Talks broke down after that and the president and lawmakers left town for the holiday.
The focus will shift to the Senate for a deal, where Obama will rely on an ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to work out a bill that the top Senate Republican, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, will not obstruct. The House must also pass the measure.
A broader effort to trim the nation's massive budget deficit will have to wait, the official said.
Congressional stubbornness risks again damaging the fragile economy, just as the nation's near-default in 2011 - the result of a stalemate over raising the national borrowing limit - dealt a nascent economic recovery a setback, the administration official said.
"If you think about the possibility of Congress failing to act to avert the fiscal cliff, combined with the abomination of what occurred in the summer of 2011, hits to our economy aren't coming from external factors, they're coming from congressional stupidity," the official said.
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