WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said Saturday that he's ready "to roll up my sleeves" and work with congressional leaders on a tax cut deal before rates are set to rise on Jan. 1.
The president said in remarks after commenting on a newly sealed free trade pact with South Korea that he wasn't happy that Senate Republicans earlier Saturday blocked legislation that would have extended tax cuts for the middle-class permanently while letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire.
But Obama told reporters, "With so much at stake, today's votes cannot be the end of the discussion."
"We need to get this resolved and I'm confident we can do it," he said. He said he'd work through the weekend and into next week to find a compromise.
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Obama said lawmakers must give the American people "the peace of mind that their taxes will not go up" come the new year. He said that will require compromise by both sides.
The Senate Saturday voted on two bills that would have permitted tax cuts to remain in effect at most incomes. Democrats knew going in that both would fail, but wanted to use the votes to cast Republicans as protecters of millionaires.
Obama repeated his position that it didn't make sense to extend tax cuts for the wealthy -- individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples over $250,000.
He didn't say what kind of deal he'd embrace, but a temporary extension of all the tax cuts is emerging as the likely compromise.
Obama also emphasized the importance of extending unemployment benefits, which just expired. That's expected to be part of any agreement. He said it was "simply wrong" for people to lose jobless benefits in the holiday season.