GUY RAZ, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Today, House Democrats voiced their protests against an agreement over tax cuts. President Obama worked out that deal with Republicans early this week. House Democrats were not in on the agreement. And today, Democrats voted that they would not allow the billion to come to the floor in its present form. That development underlines the challenges that President Obama faces to get the deal into law.
Today, NPR's Steve Inskeep spoke with the president in the Oval Office, and he joins us now from the White House.
Steve, what did President Obama say about how he's going to handle this?
STEVE INSKEEP: Well, he's obviously in a difficult situation here. He angered a great many people in his own party who had argued against allowing tax cuts for the wealthy to be extended. They'd argued against this really for a decade. They've continued arguing against it, and now, they've voiced their protests and essentially said that they can play the one card that they have, which is refusing to let this issue come to a vote at all. If it were to come to a vote, it would pass most likely with some Democrats and all are - virtually all Republicans, but they're saying they're willing to hold it hostage, to use one of the president's phrases from earlier in the week. And the president suggested that in the end, they're really not going to do that. Let's listen.
President BARACK OBAMA: Here is what I'm confident about. That nobody, Democrat or Republican, wants to see people's paychecks smaller on January 1st because Congress didn't act.
INSKEEP: He spoke about what the situation would be on January 1st if people were in that situation, a disastrous situation that would be politically, and suggested that while he is willing to talk, the bill itself has not actually been written here, he pointed out, which leaves some room. He's willing to talk. He thinks that in the end Democrats will come around.
BLOCK: Steve, part of the Democrats' outrage is that the president was negotiating with the Republicans. They felt left out of the equation, and they say in the end he capitulated. Did you ask President Obama to respond to that charge?
INSKEEP: Well, he's been responding all week to that charge of capitulation and said in a press conference earlier this week there will be other issues on which he fights. He thought this was the time to compromise. The question that was also raised by Democrats today is: Are you going to take us seriously? Are you really going to negotiate with us? What's in this deal for us, essentially?
INSKEEP: And let's listen to a little bit more of the president here.
Can you accept some changes to this plan, or is it a kind of deal that you cannot change or will not change?
Pres. OBAMA: I think my sense is that there are going to be discussions between both House and Senate leadership about all the final elements of the package. Keep in mind we didn't actually write a bill. We've put forward a framework. I'm confident that the framework is going to look like the one that we put forward.
INSKEEP: And so the president is essentially saying that that he's not going to change any of the essentials here in our conversation, which we'll hear more of tomorrow on MORNING EDITION.
The president indicated that the basics that have been agreed upon with Republican leaders are not going to change. There was no room to, for example, change the estate tax, which is a big deal for many Democrats. The estate tax will go up from what it is this year but go down from what it would otherwise have been next year. Many Democrats were furious, and the president seemed to indicate that he was not very open to changing those kinds of details.
BLOCK: Steve, at the news conference that you mentioned a little while ago, the president talked about liberals being sanctimonious - that was his word - what is he saying about them now?
INSKEEP: Well, in the days since then, the White House has tried to clarify that a little bit, not exactly backing off but trying to clarify who they say they meant. They were talking about bloggers and those sorts of people who've been very openly angry.
In this conversation, the president certainly said nothing negative about any of the Democrats in the House of Representatives who are very angry at him now and who at least, in theory, have the power to sink the entire plan. At the same time, he was trying not to really offer too much room for them at least not in public to deal here. He certainly didn't hold out any olive branches, but he did say the bill is not written yet, and he's willing to talk.
BLOCK: Okay, Steve, thanks so much.
INSKEEP: You're welcome.
BLOCK: That's MORNING EDITION host Steve Inskeep, and as he mentioned, more - much more from the president - the interview with the president tomorrow on MORNING EDITION.