President Obama said Saturday the people voted for action on Election Day and called on Congress to pass middle-class tax cuts for 98 percent of all Americans.
"On Tuesday, America went to the polls. And the message you sent was clear: You voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
"That's why I've invited leaders of both parties to the White House next week, so we can start to build consensus around challenges we can only solve together. I also intend to bring in business, labor and civic leaders from outside Washington to get their ideas and input as well."
Obama said the nation's top priority must be jobs and growth to advance the ongoing recovery from the Great Recession.
"That's the focus of the plan I talked about during the campaign. It's a plan to reward businesses that create jobs here in America, and give people access to the education and training that those businesses are looking for. It's a plan to rebuild our infrastructure and keep us on the cutting edge of innovation and clean energy. And it's a plan to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way.
"This is even more important because at the end of this year, we face a series of deadlines that require us to make major decisions about how to pay down our deficit -- decisions that will have a huge impact on the economy and the middle class, now and in the future," the president said.
While he worked with both parties last year to cut $1 trillion in spending and pledged to cut more, Obama said "we can't just cut our way to prosperity."
"If we're serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue -- and that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes. That's how we did it when Bill Clinton was president. And that's the only way we can afford to invest in education and job training and manufacturing -- all the ingredients of a strong middle class and a strong economy. ...
"Now, I'm open to compromise and new ideas. But I refuse to accept any approach that isn't balanced. I will not ask students or seniors or middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people making over $250,000 aren't asked to pay a dime more in taxes. This was a central question in the election. And on Tuesday, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach -- that includes Democrats, independents and Republicans."
He said Congress must listen to the voters and start by "making sure taxes don't go up on the 98 percent of Americans making under $250,000 a year starting January 1st," the looming deadline known as the "fiscal cliff."
"This is something we all agree on. Even as we negotiate a broader deficit reduction package, Congress should extend middle-class tax cuts right now. It's a step that would give millions of families and 97 percent of small businesses the peace of mind that will lead to new jobs and faster growth. There's no reason to wait," Obama said.
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