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Obama: Congress 'cannot' leave until tax issue resolved


President Obama said Congress "cannot" leave for its holiday vacation until lawmakers finish up work on a deal to extend an expiring payroll tax cut.

With neither Democrats nor Republicans appearing quite ready to back off their positions in the fight over how to extend a payroll tax cut, the president challenged lawmakers to stay in town at an unrelated "We Can't Wait" announcement.

“Congress should not and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families aren't seeing their taxes go up by a thousand dollars and those who are out there looking for work don't see their unemployment insurance expire," he said.

The president also cautioned that there’s no reason those items can’t be taken care of before the holidays and said “there’s no reason the government should shut down over this.”

Obama has postponed his own vacation to deal with the stalemate. The rest of the first family is set to leave for their annual Hawaiian vacation on Friday.

This statement was very similar to what Speaker John Boehner said during his weekly press conference, “We believe that it's important to keep the government open, and we believe it's important to finish the work on the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance, and the doc fix.”

Both sides might be seeking the same outcome, but their path toward averting a shutdown is different. The details of a tax cut extension bill that can get through the House and the Senate are still unknown. After his announcement, the president ignored shouted questions about how he wants the payroll tax cut extension paid for and if he’s worried about a government shutdown.

While everybody seems to agree that a shutdown is unnecessary, the Office of Management and Budget released a statement yesterday that said, “We do need to be prepared for any contingency, and in case Congress does not act, we are taking the steps necessary to be prepared if a lapse in funding should occur. That is why agencies are sending an email to employees this afternoon to alert them to this possibility and how it would affect them.”

NBC's Frank Thorp contributed to this post.