Obama's remarks were choreographed so that a diverse-looking group of Americans stood behind him and dozens more were invited to pack the East Room. In the weeks ahead, he plans to pull in the public as a way to pressure Congress.
"I am not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me, making over $250,000, aren't asked to pay a dime more in taxes. I'm not going to do that," said Obama.
He said voters plainly agreed with his approach that both tax increases and spending cuts are needed to trim the national debt.
"Our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people," Obama said.About 60% of voters said in exit polls Tuesday that taxes should increase, either for everyone or those making over $250,000. Left unsaid by Obama was that even more voters opposed raising taxes to help cut the deficit. The scheduled year-end changes include a series of expiring tax cuts that were approved in the George W. Bush administration. The other half of the problem is a set of punitive across-the-board spending cuts, looming only because partisan panel of lawmakers failed to reach a debt deal. Put together, they could mean the loss of roughly 3 million jobs. Since the election, Boehner and Obama have both responded to the reality that they need each other -- though their rhetoric is a bit testy. "This is his opportunity to lead," Boehner said of Obama, not long before the president said: "All we need is action from the House." Obama said the uncertainty now spooking investors and employers will be shrunk if Congress extends -- quickly -- the tax cuts for all those except the most-well off. The Senate has passed such a bill. The House showed no interest on Friday in Obama's idea.