Obama prods Congress on tax cut: We'll spend the holidays together

President Obama on Friday warned that “Congress may not be leaving” for the holidays if it doesn't pass proposals to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.

Obama also offered muted praise for the lowered unemployment rate and expressed the need to keep growth going. 

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The jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent in November “despite some strong headwinds this year,” Obama said at a speech announcing new energy investment in Washington, D.C. He noted that the economy has now added private sector jobs for 21 straight months.

The president pivoted from the unemployment report to argue that the growth of the economy would be at risk if Congress fails to act on taxes and unemployment aid.

"Failure to take either of these steps would be a significant blow to our economy," he said. "Now is not the time to slam the brakes on the recovery. Right now it's time to step on the gas."

He warned that he would not take the pressure off Congress to get it done.

“I expect that it’s going to get done before Congress leaves. Otherwise, Congress may not be leaving, and we can all spend Christmas here together,” Obama said.

"As president, my most pressing challenge is doing everything I can every single day to get this economy growing faster and create more jobs," he said.

He expressed his disappointment in Thursday night's Senate vote, in which his proposal to extend the tax holiday went down 51-49. 

Obama called that outcome “unacceptable” in a statement released by the White House Thursday evening. 

"Tonight, Senate Republicans chose to raise taxes on nearly 160 million hardworking Americans because they refused to ask a few hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share,” he said. “Now is not the time to put the economy and the security of the middle class at risk.”

Republicans have indicated they will support extending the pay roll tax cut, but not if it is paid for with a tax hike on millionaires. They also say the cost of extending the tax cut must be paid for.

--This post was updated at 12:54 p.m.