An angry Barack Obama has defended his tax deal with Republicans and hit back at critical fellow Democrats, warning them against becoming too ideologically pure and self-satisfied.
In an unusual show of emotion in his two-year presidency, the US president responded hotly at a news conference when a reporter asked him about liberal claims that he had broken campaign promises.
“Take a tally. Look at what I promised during the campaign. There’s not a single thing that I haven’t done or tried to do,” Mr Obama said.
The deal provided the first big test of how Mr Obama will work out compromises with empowered Republicans as they take control of the House of Representatives and shrink their minority status in the Senate when the new Congress is seated in January.
Mr Obama struggled to prevent wholesale defections by fellow Democrats that could sink the tax deal if it comes to a vote in the closing weeks of the current Congress.
Democrats still have sizeable majorities although the party is dispirited and divided after last month’s Republican election landslide.
Many Republican politicians seemed ready to embrace the compromise with Mr Obama and declare victory. The question was whether enough Democrats would join them in support, especially in the House of Representatives, where liberal resentment of the president’s concessions on tax breaks for the wealthiest runs strong.
If Democrats kill the tax plan, it would mark a stunning defeat for Mr Obama and a huge political bet that voters will blame Republicans as much as Democrats for an impasse that leads to higher taxes from January 1 for millions of Americans.
Few on Capitol Hill believe Democrats will take that gamble. But liberal politicians’ discontent is hard to measure in the wake of last month’s big election setbacks.
Mr Obama and most in his party had insisted that across-the-board tax cuts that were put in place during the administration of George Bush should not be extended for wealthy Americans past their year-end expiry.