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Obama on cliff deal: 'I actually still think we can get it done'

While speaking at the White House, President Barack Obama urges lawmakers to compromise on a budget plan as America's fiscal deadline looms.

As lawmakers departed Washington without progress on the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations, President Barack Obama urged members of Congress to "cool off" over the Christmas holiday and address a short-term solution to the looming deficit issue before the end of the year, even if a larger bargain remains out of reach for now.

"In the next few days I've asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for two million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction," he said in a statement to reporters late Friday afternoon. "That's an achievable goal."

Obama said that Republicans and Democrats agree that tax rates on all but the top two percent of earners should not be raised by the cliff's automatically-triggered measures that will go into effect in just 10 days without congressional action.

"Averting this middle class tax hike is not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility," he argued. "With their votes, the American people have determined that governing is a shared responsibility between both parties."

His remarks came after the House failed to take action on a 'Plan B' measure to maintain Bush-era tax rates for all earners making under $1 million annually. That bill was opposed by the White House as well as by much of House Speaker John Boehner's own caucus, and Boehner was forced to pull it from the floor without a vote.

Related:  Boehner's fiscal path forward: 'God only knows'

Obama alluded to that turmoil in his remarks, as well as to some dissent within his own party about potential compromises on entitlements and spending cuts.

"The challenge that we've got right now is that the American people are a lot more sensible, a lot more thoughtful, and much more willing to compromise and give and sacrifice and act responsibly than their elected representatives are," Obama said. "That's a problem."

"Call me a hopeless optimist," the president near the end of his remarks, "but I actually still think we can get it done."

The House and Senate adjourned for the Christmas holiday today.  Following his remarks Friday evening, the president and his family departed for a holiday break in Hawaii.

Urging members to consider avenues for compromise, Obama asked members of Congress to get "perspective" during the Christmas holiday before returning to Washington to work on a short-term deal.

"As we leave town for a few days to be with our families for the holidays, I hope that gives everybody some perspective," he said. "Everybody can cool off, everybody can drink some egg nog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones. And I'd ask every member of Congress, while they're at home, to think about that, to think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here."