President Barack Obama brought his budget plan to Montgomery County Friday to make a public case for his strategy in dealing with the looming fiscal cliff.
The president arrived at The Rodon Group in Hatfield, Montgomery County at 11 a.m. He took a tour of the facility and then spoke about the fiscal cliff and his strategy of pressuring Republicans to allow tax increases on the wealthy while extending tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less.
Obama's speech came a day after his administration proposed $1.6 trillion in new taxes over 10 years, new spending for the unemployed and struggling homeowners and savings of about $400 billion in entitlement programs like Medicare. The proposal amounts to requests that were already in Obama's Fiscal 2013 budget plan. Republicans rejected the offer as unreasonable.
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Obama argued Friday that allowing taxes to rise for the middle class would amount to a "lump of coal for Christmas," while Republican House Speaker John Boehner declared that negotiations to surmount a looming fiscal cliff are going "almost nowhere."
The visit is part of a series of events to build support for his approach to avoid across-the-board tax increases and steep spending cuts in defense and domestic programs. Obama met with small business owners at the White House on Tuesday and with middle-class families on Wednesday.
Obama says The Rodon Group is an example of a business that depends on middle-class consumers during the holiday season. The company manufactures parts for K'NEX Brands, a construction toy company whose products include Tinkertoy, K'NEX Building Sets and Angry Birds Building Sets.
Obama said he believed both parties "can and will work together" to reach an agreement to get its long-term deficit under control "in a way that's balanced and is fair."
"In Washington, nothing's easy so there is going to be some prolonged negotiations and all of us are going to have to get out of our comfort zones to make that happen," he said. "I'm willing to do that. I'm hopeful that enough members of Congress in both parties are willing to do that as well."
The president's Montgomery County capped a week of public outreach as the White House and congressional leaders negotiate a way to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. The trip will mark Obama's first public event outside the nation's capital since winning re-election.
Both sides warn the so-called "fiscal cliff" could harm the nation's economic recovery, but an agreement still appears far from assured. The White House and congressional Republicans have differed on whether to raise revenue through higher tax rates or by closing tax loopholes and deductions.
Rep. Boehner, R-Ohio, has pushed for raising additional revenue through the reducing of tax loopholes instead of raising tax rates on wealthy Americans. The White House has countered that the president will not sign legislation that extends current tax rates to the top 2 percent of income earners, or those households with incomes over $250,000.
"There's a stalemate. Let's not kid ourselves," Boehner said. "Right now, we're almost nowhere."
Obama, only weeks after winning re-election, has signaled his intention to rally the public to pressure Congress to support his agenda, an approach that helped him win passage of a payroll tax cut extension and prevented interest rates on millions of federal student loans from doubling last summer.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email to supporters after the election that the president's volunteer base was crucial to his re-election but said it was not aimed "just to win a campaign. We have more progress to make, and there's only one way to do it: together."
Following the election, Obama aides asked supporters to record YouTube videos discussing the need to have the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes. Some of the people who shared their stories on YouTube planned to join Obama at the White House on Wednesday.
Congressional Republicans, led by Boehner, have expressed openness to discussing additional revenue but oppose any plan that raises tax rates on the wealthy. They argue that the higher rates would also hurt some small businesses and hinder economic growth.
Republicans have called for changes to the tax code to eliminate tax breaks and loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy. Several key Republican lawmakers have also said they would not be bound by a no-tax-increase pledge that they have adhered to in the past.