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Obama displeases both sides

GOP irked by ‘cheerleading’; liberals dislike deal limits

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As the White House and Congress sought a soft landing in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, President Obama was getting an earful from critics on the right as well as the left, with even some disgruntled Democrats struggling to paint the president's handling of the talks in the final days in a positive light.

Hill Republicans made no bones over their anger with Mr. Obama for holding a Monday afternoon rally with middle-class taxpayers, blasting him for taking what they said was a premature victory lap for having forced GOP concessions on tax increases.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, called the session "a cheerleading rally," and Sen. Daniel Coats, Indiana Republican, said it reminded him of football players taunting their opponents.

"It's in your face. It was demeaning. It was insulting. It was sad," he said.

House Republicans, who spent New Year's Day weighing whether to hold a vote on the deal the Senate had passed early Tuesday morning, bristled again after the White House sent out talking points in which Mr. Obama took credit for achieving "a bipartisan solution that keeps income taxes low and grows the economy" — before they even had scheduled a vote.

They were upset that the 157-page Senate bill focuses almost entirely on taxes, extending most of the George W. Bush-era tax rates while doing nothing to cut spending. The Senate-passed deal would prevent across-the-board spending cuts from going into effect for two months, after which Congress would face another deadline to produce targeted cuts.

While House Republicans spent the day threatening to amend the deal and send it back to the Senate, most Democrats deferred to the White House and seemed relieved to be making progress on an issue that has gridlocked Washington for two years.

"There has been a great deal of angst about the cliff over the last few months ... and I think that is subsiding now," said Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black and Progressive caucuses. "I think people will give the president some real credit."

Mr. Davis quickly added that he considered Vice President Joseph R. Biden's role in hammering out a deal with Senate Republicans "his shining moment."

"He didn't seek it. It sought him," Mr. Davis told reporters.

But some liberal Democrats were struggling to put a positive spin on the deal.

Upset over the president's willingness to raise the threshold for tax increases to households making $450,000 instead of the $250,000 Mr. Obama had demanded during the campaign, several members tried to dodge reporters' questions Tuesday afternoon when leaving a caucus meeting with Mr. Biden.

When asked what he thought of the president's negotiating skills on the fiscal cliff over the past few months, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, said, "I don't know. I'm trying to be diplomatic."

Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, one of the most liberal members of the Democratic caucus, was the most outspoken in his outrage over the limits of the deal.

Holding court with reporters for about 15 minutes, he questioned Mr. Obama's decision to sign off on an agreement that would force Washington into another round of intense negotiations over spending cuts two months down the road.

"It's just incomprehensible to me that we are going to do it again, rather than just biting the bullet now, resolving it, getting it off the table, rather than subjecting the American public — and the markets — to this sort of uncertainty," he continued.

Sean Lengell contributed to this report.

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