HONOLULU — President Barack Obama says Congress' eventual willingness to come together and prevent year-end tax increases makes him hopeful of more economic progress to come in 2012.
"It was good to see members of Congress do the right thing for millions of working Americans," said Obama, using his weekly radio and Internet address to deliver a New Year's message.
In Saturday's address, the president said a key reason lawmakers eventually forged an agreement to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut for two more months was the input from the public. Through phone calls, email and Twitter, Obama said, the American people "had the courage to believe your voices could make a difference."
The president said he expects Congress to finish the job when lawmakers return to Washington in January and extend the payroll tax cuts through the end of the year.
Reflecting on 2011, Obama said it was a time of great challenge and great progress for the U.S., including the end of the war in Iraq, the death of Osama bin Laden and signs of an economic recovery.
"There's no doubt that 2012 will bring even more change," Obama said. "And as we head into the new year, I'm hopeful that we have what it takes to face that change and come out even stronger — to grow our economy, create more jobs and strengthen the middle class."
On the eve of an election year, Obama said the months ahead will help determine "what kind of country we want to be and what kind of world we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in."
Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, delivering the GOP address, outlined his party's commitments to the American people for 2012.
Isakson said the party's No. 1 goal is to make it easier for small businesses to create jobs.
"We'll accomplish this by focusing on three things: fundamental tax reform, regulatory reform and energy security," he said.
Isakson said that while some people may think Congress will be too consumed with the 2012 elections to accomplish anything significant, the public deserves better.
"Americans cannot wait until after the November election," he said. "They need us to do our job and do it right now to create an economic climate that makes it easier to put people back to work."
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