WASHINGTON - President Obama on Wednesday accused House Republicans of letting their animosity toward him prevent them from approving a deal to avert the nation's imminent fiscal crisis, even though the two sides had been close to a compromise days ago.
"They keep on finding ways to say no as opposed to finding ways to say yes," Obama said at a midday news conference at the White House. "I don't know how much of that just has to do with, you know, it is very hard for them to say yes to me. But, you know, at some point, you know, they've got to take me out of it and think about their voters and think about what's best for the country."
Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner have been negotiating behind closed doors to meet an end-of-the-year deadline to prevent another recession. On Monday, they seemed close to a deal. But talks stalled the next day after Boehner introduced a backup plan that would raises taxes only for those who earn more than $1 million a year.
The president threatened to veto the speaker's so-called Plan B if it came to his desk. In a report issued Wednesday, the White House argued that the plan - which does not continue the American Opportunity Tax Credit and improvements to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit - would raise taxes for about 25 million middle-class households while preserving large tax cuts for millionaires, hurting the unemployed and reducing Medicare.
In response to Obama's comments, Boehner (R., Ohio) met with reporters in a hallway outside his Capitol office to complain that the Obama offer "fails to meet the test that the president promised the people: a balanced approach." He said he hoped the president "will get serious soon" about working with Republicans.
The House is expected to take up Plan B - legislation to make permanent most of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, except for those affecting millionaires - Thursday. The bill is not expected to win Senate approval.
"Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for every American, 99.8 percent of the American people," Boehner told reporters. "Then the president will have a decision to make. He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history."
The most important vote tally Thursday will involve how many Republicans go along. Many conservatives remain wary of any tax increase, though Americans for Tax Reform, which has a no-tax pledge, said a vote on the million-dollar tax threshold would not violate its principles. Some still remain opposed.
Republican leaders hope that if a large majority of their 241-member caucus votes for Plan B, they can show Obama that a chunk of Republicans is willing to vote for higher taxes. The vote also gives them a fallback, a chance to say they were proactive in pushing for ways to avoid the fiscal cliff.