Obama uses bully pulpit to press his advantage on payroll tax cut

Obama uses bully pulpit to press his advantage on payroll tax cut

Building on momentum and saying “the fight is beginning to turn our way,” President Obama on Tuesday urged voters to keep pressuring Congress to pass the payroll tax cut as time runs out on an extension.

Speaking at the White House, Obama used an airplane analogy when describing the economy’s recent uptick, but acknowledged "we're not at cruising altitude yet” and Congress shouldn’t pull the plug before that happens.

“The last thing we need is for Washington to stand in our way,” Obama said. “And first and foremost that means Washington shouldn’t hike taxes on working Americans right now. That’s the wrong thing to do. But that’s exactly what’s going to happen at the end of this month, in a couple of weeks, if Congress doesn’t do something about it.”

Obama’s remarks come a day after House GOP leaders did an about-face, arriving at the decision that they needed to support the payroll tax extension without demanding that spending cuts pay for it. The shift shows Republicans were worried about repeating the defeat they suffered in December when they hesitated before agreeing to extend the tax cut for two months.

A House vote could occur as early as Wednesday.

Obama called the GOP concession “good news” but stressed that nothing is certain yet.

“As you guys know, you can’t take anything for granted if you’re in Washington until my signature is actually on it,” Obama said. “So we’ve got to keep on making sure that the American people’s voices keep breaking through until this is absolutely, finally, completely done. Until you see me sign this thing, you’ve got to keep speaking up.

“Until you see that photograph of me signing it at my desk,” Obama said, “make sure it’s verified, certified — if it’s not on the White House website, it hasn’t happened.”

The GOP decision could put on another path an extension of unemployment benefits and an extension of the “doc fix,” which prevents a scheduled cut in physician payments under Medicare. Republicans are insisting that both of those measures should be offset with spending cuts.

The president said Congress should extend the tax cut along with what he called “vital insurance lifelines” for Americans who have lost their jobs. Repeating his usual line, he urged Congress to “do it now, without drama and without delay, no ideological sideshows to gum up the works, no self-inflicted wounds."

“Do it before it’s too late and I will sign it right away,” he added.

Republicans acknowledged late Monday that they didn’t want to be beaten a second time on the issue, just two months after Obama and Democrats were victorious in the divisive standoff. The two-month extension gave more than 160 working Americans a tax extension for two months.