US President Barack Obama said Wednesday he and Republicans had narrowed differences over how to avoid the "fiscal cliff" to "a few hundred million dollars," and urged his adversaries to compromise on a year-end deal.
"At some point there's got to be... a recognition on the part of my Republican friends that, you know, take the deal," Obama told reporters as the two sides struggled to come to agreement on how to prevent tax hikes on all Americans and federal spending cuts that kick in beginning January 1.
Obama had campaigned for months on a platform of extending Bush-era tax breaks for households making under $250,000 a year, as part of a 10-year deficit reduction plan that would entail raising tax revenues and slashing federal spending. He has since bumped the threshold up to $400,000.
Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, presented a counter-offer of extending the tax breaks for everyone making under $1 million. Both offers have been summarily rejected, although each side says talks are ongoing.
Despite the brinksmanship pushing right up to the year-end deadline, he characterized Republican refusal to acquiesce to his plan as "puzzling," and that there was "no reason why we should" tumble over the so-called fiscal cliff.
"If you look at Speaker Boehner's proposal and my proposal, they're pretty close," Obama said.
"There's a little bit of tweaks here and there and a few differences, but, you know, we're right there."
Boehner has said he would be satisfied with approximately $1 trillion in tax revenues and $1 trillion in spending cuts, much of it from entitlement programs like Medicare, as part of a 10-year deal.
He has dismissed the latest White House offer as including $1.3 trillion in new revenues, with only $850 billion in net spending reductions.
Obama however said Republicans should embrace his plan, which now includes savings that come from an adjustment to the inflation index for Social Security benefits, and be "proud" of helping orchestrate a sweeping deal that lays out some of the steepest deficit reduction in decades.
"They keep on finding ways to say no as opposed to finding ways to say yes," Obama said, ruminating on the idea that Republicans might simply want to avoid cooperating with him.
"But you know, at some point they've got to take me out of it and think about their voters," he added.
"They can think about what's best for the country, and if they do that, if they're not worried about who is winning and losing, did they score a point on the president... then they focus on actually (doing) good for the country, I think we can get this done."