It's understandable that some may have been skeptical that real bipartisan cooperation could happen in what have been heated political times over the past years, but after the President's meeting with bipartisan Congressional leaders today he sounded a note of optimism:
It’s no secret that we have had differences that have led us to part ways on many issues in the past. But we are Americans first, and we share a responsibility for the stewardship of our nation. The American people did not vote for gridlock. They didn’t vote for unyielding partisanship. They’re demanding cooperation and they’re demanding progress. And they’ll hold all of us –- and I mean all of us –- accountable for it. And I was very encouraged by the fact that there was broad recognition of that fact in the room.
I just want to say I thought it was a productive meeting. I thought that people came to it with a spirit of trying to work together. And I think it’s a good start as we move forward.
I think everybody understands that the American people want us to focus on their jobs, not ours. They want us to come together around strategies to accelerate the recovery and get Americans back to work. They want us to confront the long-term deficits that cloud our future. They want us to focus on their safety and security, and not allow matters of urgent importance to become locked up in the politics of Washington.
Between election season, the Thanksgiving holiday, and the simple fact that there are a lot of challenges facing the country, there's no doubt that Congress has a lot on its plate. The President touched on some of the issues they discussed at the meeting, including tax cuts:
Having said that, we agreed that there must be some sensible common ground. So I appointed my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, and my budget director, Jack Lew, to work with representatives of both parties to break through this logjam. I’ve asked the leaders to appoint members to help in this negotiation process. They agreed to do that. That process is beginning right away and we expect to get some answers back over the next couple of days about how we can accomplish our key goal, which is to make sure the economy continues to grow and we are putting people back to work. And we also want to make sure that we're giving the middle class the peace of mind of knowing that their taxes will not be raised come January 1st.
I also urged both parties to move quickly to preserve a number of other tax breaks for individuals and businesses that are helping our recovery right now and that are set to expire at the end of the year. This includes a tax credit for college tuition, a tax credit for 95 percent -- a tax break for 95 percent of working families that I initiated at the beginning of my presidency, as well as a tax cut worth thousands of dollars for businesses that hire unemployed workers.
We discussed a number of other issues as well, including the importance of ratifying the New START treaty so we can monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal, reduce our nuclear weapons, and strengthen our relationship with Russia. I reminded the room that this treaty has been vetted for seven months now; it’s gone through 18 hearings; it has support from senators of both parties; it has broad bipartisan support from national security advisors and secretaries of defense and secretaries of state from previous administrations, both Democrat and Republican; and that it’s absolutely essential to our national security. We need to get it done.
We also talked about the work of the bipartisan deficit reduction commission and the difficult choices that will be required in order to get our fiscal house in order. We discussed working together to keep the government running this year -– and running in a fiscally responsible way. And we discussed unemployment insurance, which expires today. I’ve asked that Congress act to extend this emergency relief without delay to folks who are facing tough times by no fault of their own.