U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday had a clear message for Republicans in negotiations to avoid the looming fiscal cliff, urging them to take the deal he has offered.
Obama said the sides were separated by just a "few hundred billion dollars" and noted he had moved "more than halfway" in an effort to reach agreement on more gradual austerity measures to avert the damage of drastic spending cuts and tax hikes.
"At some point there's got to be, I think, a recognition on the part of my Republican friends that - you know, take the deal," he told reporters at the White House.
Obama called his proposal a "fair deal."
"The fact that (Republicans) haven't taken it yet is puzzling, and I think, you know, a question that you're going to have to address to them," he said, while maintaining hope of a deal before Christmas.
Speaker of the House John Boehner had put forward Tuesday a "Plan B" in case the sides can reach and agreement, but the move had appeared to stall progress on negotiations with the White House dismissing the move as insufficient.
In his most recent proposal, Obama has reportedly proposed raising taxes only on households earning more than $400,000 per year, after previously insisting on a threshold of 250,000 for tax hikes. The sides were reportedly close on a figure for new revenues and on spending cuts.
Major income tax increases and cuts in federal spending will take effect in January unless Congress acts before the end of the year to enact more gradual deficit reduction measures. With an economic bite estimated at $600 billion in 2013 alone, the austerity measures could throw the U.S. back into recession.
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