WASHINGTON, D.C. — Optimistic despite a tightening deadline, President Barack Obama said Wednesday he and House Speaker John Boehner are "pretty close" to a grand fiscal deal to avoid a first-of-the-year shock to the economy, but that congressional Republicans "keep on finding ways to say no as opposed to finding ways to say yes."
Obama cast a resolution to the "fiscal cliff" as a matter of political will. He said in the aftermath of the massacre of school children in Connecticut, the nation deserves a compromise by its political leaders.
"If this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective," he said. And he urged lawmakers to "peel off the partisan war paint" and strike a deal.
Obama spoke to reporters at the White House after announcing an administration-wide response to Friday's shooting at an elementary school in Newtown that killed 20 first-graders and six adults.
His comments came shortly after the White House threatened to veto Boehner's backup plan for averting the "fiscal cliff." Boehner's measure, a so-called Plan B, would block tax increases from being triggered Jan. 1 on everyone but those whose incomes exceed $1 million.
Boehner is planning a House vote on his proposal on Thursday, hoping it would raise pressure on Obama to make concessions as both sides continue reaching for a bipartisan deal on averting the "fiscal cliff." Without an agreement among lawmakers, broad tax increases on nearly all taxpayers and budget-wide spending cuts will be triggered in early January.
Boehner, R-Ohio, responded to Obama with a defiant tone. In an appearance before reporters that lasted under a minute, Boehner called on Obama to offer a deficit-cutting plan balanced between spending cuts and tax increases and predicted that the House would pass his backup plan.