Obama pressures Congress to shed ‘fiscal cliff’ ‘partisan war paint’

President Barack Obama on Wednesday publicly pressured congressional Republicans to compromise before Christmas on a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff," and used Friday's shooting in Newtown, Conn., to emphasize his point.

Obama was asked about progress on the fiscal cliff—the automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect Jan. 1 if a deal is not made—during a question and answer session at the White House. The Q&A followed the president's announcement that Vice President Joe Biden will head up an effort to respond to Friday's shooting with policy measures.

"If this past week has done anything, it should just give us perspective," Obama said. "Right now what the country needs is for us to compromise.

"If you peel off the partisan war paint, we should be able to get something done." He added that the deadline for action is fast approaching.

"I remain not only open to conversations, but eager to get something done," he said. "I’d like to get it done before Christmas."

The White House and Speaker John Boehner have been engaged in a back-and-forth over a fiscal cliff deal.

Late Monday, the president backed off his insistence on raising taxes for households earning more than $250,000 and offered to raise taxes for those making over $400,000. Boehner responded with a proposal he called "Plan B," which included raising taxes for Americans making more than $1 million while other issues were negotiated. The White House immediately rejected that proposal.

“The Congressional Republican ‘Plan B’ legislation continues large tax cuts for the very wealthiest individuals—on average, millionaires would see a tax break of $50,000—while eliminating tax cuts that 25 million students and families struggling to make ends meet depend on and ending critical incentives for our nation’s businesses,” White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement Wednesday. “It would also cut off a vital lifeline of unemployment assistance to 2 million Americans fighting to find a job just a few days after Christmas, while deeply cutting Medicare.”

The president noted at Wednesday's press conference that he has been open to compromise in the ongoing negotiations, saying he's met Republicans "at last half way. I don’t know how much of that just has to do with—it’s very hard for them to say 'yes' to me. But at some point they've got to take me out of it and think about their voters."

The president said he will reach out to congressional leaders this week to find out "what is holding this thing up" and why Republicans haven't "taken" his offer.