WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday Congress must meet its deadlines and responsibilities and protect the middle class from higher income taxes.
"For the past couple months, I've been working with people in both parties -- with the help of business leaders and ordinary Americans -- to come together around a plan to grow the economy and shrink our deficits," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
"It's a balanced plan -- one that would protect the middle class, cut spending in a responsible way, and ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more. And I'll keep working with anybody who's serious about getting a comprehensive plan like this done -- because it's the right thing to do for our economic growth," the president said.
"In just a couple days, the law says that every American's tax rates are going up. Every American's paycheck will get a lot smaller. And that would be the wrong thing to do for our economy. It would hurt middle-class families, and it would hurt the businesses that depend on your spending."
Obama said Congress can act now to stop that from happening.
"Leaders in Congress are working on a way to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I believe we may be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time.
"But if an agreement isn't reached in time, then I'll urge the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on a basic package that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends vital unemployment insurance for Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future progress on more economic growth and deficit reduction. ...
"We just can't afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. The economy is growing, but keeping it that way means that the folks you sent to Washington have to do their jobs. The housing market is healing, but that could stall if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since 2008, but already, families and businesses are starting to hold back because of the dysfunction they see in Washington.
"You meet your deadlines and your responsibilities every day. The folks you sent here to serve should do the same. We cannot let Washington politics get in the way of America's progress. We've got to do what it takes to protect the middle class, grow this economy, and move our country forward," Obama said.