President Obama took to the airwaves today in a rare Sunday morning TV show appearance, lambasting Republicans for failing to reach a deal to avoid a fiscal crisis and warning that the lack of results could hurt the U.S. economy.
"What's been holding (the economy) back is the dysfunction here in Washington," Obama said. "If people start seeing that on Jan. 1 this problem still hasn't been solved...if they say that people's taxes have gone up, which means consumer spending is going to be depressed, then obviously that's going to have an adverse reaction in the markets."
He sought to put the blame for the inaction squarely on Republicans in Congress, saying "it's been very hard" for House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "to accept the fact that taxes on the wealthiest Americans should go up a little bit as part of an overall deficit reduction package."
He charged that Republicans "say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way. But the way they're behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected. That seems to be their only overriding, unifying theme."
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, called the remarks "discordant" and noted that as Obama made them, McConnell "was in the office working to bring Republicans and Democrats together on a solution."
The Meet the Press interview was taped Saturday at the White House and in it Obama says he was "modestly optimistic" on Friday about reaching a deal, but that "we don't yet see an agreement. Now the pressure's on Congress to produce."
The interview comes as talks proceed: The Senate is to convene at 1, the House is back at 2.
Obama insisted he's made efforts to compromise, noting his offer to change Social Security payments was "highly unpopular" among his fellow Democrats and the AARP.
"The offers that I've made to (Republicans) have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me," he said.
But Republicans, he said, "have had trouble saying 'yes' to a number of repeated offers."