Obama: Senate deal 'the right thing to do for our country' on deficit

President Obama hailed the Senate’s ‘fiscal cliff’ legislation Tuesday as a model of bipartisan compromise ¬– and urged the House to pass the bill “without delay.”

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In a statement after the Senate’s early morning vote, Obama said the bill would help “grow the economy and shrink our deficits in a balanced way.”

The deal “protects 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small business owners from a middle class tax hike,” Obama said. 

The legislation, negotiated by Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), was approved in an 89-8 vote just after 2 a.m. 

The deal would extend the Bush-era income tax rates on individuals to $400,000 and family income up to $450,000. It permanently sets the estate tax rate at 40 percent, up from 35 percent, and exempts inheritances below $5 million.  

It would also postpone the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester for two months.

“While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay,” Obama said. 

The president had campaigned for reelection on a pledge to raise income tax rates for all households earning above $250,000. But the bill’s $450,000 threshold marked a significant step in efforts to get "the wealthy to pay a little more," Obama said. 

“Last year, I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut spending by more than $1 trillion.  [The fiscal cliff bill] does even more by asking millionaires and billionaires to begin to pay their fair share for the first time in twenty years,” Obama said. “As promised, that increase will be immediate, and it will be permanent.”

Obama had angered Republicans on Monday with a campaign-style event at the White House in which he drew cheers for his criticism of Congress’s failure to pass a broader ‘grand bargain’ on the deficit. 

“There’s more work to do to reduce our deficits, and I’m willing to do it,” Obama said in his statement Tuesday morning. “But [this bill] ensures that, going forward, we will continue to reduce the deficit through a combination of new spending cuts and new revenues from the wealthiest.”