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Obama warns of 'Scrooge' Christmas without tax-cut extension

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Story highlights

  • No talks between White House and congressional leaders are set, an official says
  • President Barack Obama urges quick deal on tax-cut extension for most Americans
  • Republicans are balking at Obama's first proposal, including $1.6 trillion in revenue increases
  • Nancy Pelosi predicts 100% of House would back a "middle-class" tax cut

After touring a Pennsylvania toy factory that's churning out would-be holiday gifts, President Barack Obama warned Friday of a "Scrooge" Christmas if Congress does not pass legislation extending tax cuts for 98% of Americans.

The visit and speech were part of Obama's campaign-like push to curry public support for his plan to avert the so-called fiscal cliff and the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that would come with it.

"Let's get that done," Obama said of approving tax cuts for most Americans, while letting rates for the top 2% go up. "Let's go ahead and take the fear out for the vast majority of American families so they don't have to worry about $2,000 coming out of their pockets next year."

In Washington, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, raised alarms about an impasse a month before the fiscal cliff would set in, to the detriment of the nation's fragile economic recovery, many economists warn.

"There's a stalemate. Let's not kid ourselves," Boehner said.

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As of early Friday evening, no talks were planned between the White House and congressional leadership to avert what could happen in January, an official familiar with the situation said.

    With little evidence of a breakthrough, Obama has tried to amp up pressure on Republicans by making his pitch public. The Rodon Manufacturing Group plant in Hatfield that he visited makes K'Nex toys, which Obama jokingly offered to members of Congress who make his "nice" list.

    Not on that list are many House Republicans.

    How to raise taxes on the rich

    The Democratic-controlled Senate has already passed legislation calling for the extension of tax cuts for all but the most wealthy Americans, but the matter has not come up for a vote in the House.

    Republicans who control that chamber, many of whom oppose any tax rate increases, have insisted the tax-cut extensions apply to all Americans and balked at considering separately the tax cut that applies to 98% of Americans. Obama says House Republicans are holding "hostage" something that would help the vast majority of the country to protect the wealthy few.

    "That doesn't make sense," the president said, urging Americans to flood House Republicans with calls, letters and social networking messages.

    Addressing the tax-cut extension for lower- and middle-class families is the most urgent "ticking clock" among the provisions in the "fiscal cliff" package of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect January 1 if lawmakers and the administration can't reach a compromise, Obama said.

    Without the cut, the administration has argued many Americans could pull back on purchasing during the crucial holiday shopping season.

    Longer term, analysts and the Congressional Budget Office have said that going and staying over the fiscal cliff -- meaning the tax hikes for all and spending cuts aren't pulled back -- would threaten millions of jobs, especially those dependent on government contracting, and risk a return to recession.

    Wall Street and big businesses are lobbying the administration and lawmakers to reach a deal. Investors have been grappling with the uncertainty over the prospect of higher taxes and damaged consumer confidence caused by political gridlock over deficits and the debt.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the election and polls show public support for extending the "middle class" tax cut while raising rates for the wealthiest.

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    She and her caucus are ready to solicit the support of some Republicans in amassing 218 signatures to bring the Senate tax-cut extension bill up for a vote next week.

    "I think we would get a 100% vote on it if it came to the floor," the California Democrat said Friday.

    How to bridge the fiscal cliff

    The remarks came a day after the Obama administration unveiled details of a comprehensive package, widely rejected by Republicans, to avert the fiscal cliff.

    The president's proposal calls for $1.6 trillion in increased revenue, some of it the result of higher tax rates for families making more than $250,000.

    Obama also wants to close loopholes, limit deductions, raise the estate tax rate to 2009 levels and increase taxes on capital gains and dividend taxes.

    The proposal also calls for additional spending, including a new $50 billion stimulus package, a home mortgage refinancing plan and an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. It would also extend the payroll tax cut passed early in Obama's administration to give taxpayers more money to spend.

    In return, multiple sources told CNN that Obama is offering $400 billion in new cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs. Specifics on cuts would be decided next year, the sources said.

    Boehner characterized Obama's proposal for spending cuts as a trifle, calling for "a little, not even $400 billion" in cuts to the $3.8 trillion federal budget.

    "It was not a serious proposal," he said.

    Republican aides also said the $1.6 trillion in increased revenue was higher than previously discussed. Democrats said the number should not be a surprise, as Obama discussed it during his re-election campaign.

    On the campaign trail, the president also repeatedly said the wealthiest Americans should pay more than they do now to help lower the national debt.

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