WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday Congress must work together to extend middle-class tax cuts and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
"Four years after the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, our economy is growing again and creating jobs. But we have much more to do. Our task now is to build on that progress. Because this nation only succeeds when we've got a growing, thriving middle class," Obama said in his weekly Internet and radio address.
"Soon, we face a very clear deadline that requires us to make some big decisions on jobs and taxes; on investments and deficits. Both parties voted to set this deadline. And I believe both parties can work together to make these decisions in a balanced and responsible way."
The president said there are "two pathways available" when it comes to taxes.
"If Congress fails to act by the end of the year, then everybody's taxes automatically go up -- including the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year. Our economy can't afford that right now. You can't afford that right now. And nobody wants that to happen.
"The other path is for Congress to pass a law right away to prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of anyone's income. That means all Americans -- including the wealthiest Americans -- get a tax cut. And 98 percent of Americans, and 97 percent of all small-business owners, won't see their income taxes go up a single dime," the president said.
"All we need is for Republicans in the House to come on board," he said, noting the Senate already has passed a bill and Democrats in the House are ready to pass one, too.
"We shouldn't hold the middle class hostage while Congress debates tax cuts for the wealthy. Let's begin our work by actually doing what we all agree on. Let's keep taxes low for the middle class. And let's get it done soon -- so we can give families and businesses some good news going into the holiday season."
Obama said he sat down with congressional leaders Friday to discuss ways to reduce the deficit, strengthen the economy and protect the middle class. He said the meeting was "constructive" and everyone agreed "we need to come together, find solutions and take action as soon as possible."