President Barack Obama talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
By Kevin Miller
WASHINGTON — A trip to Portland that President Obama had planned for next week has been canceled because of Friday's elementary school shootings in Connecticut, the White House announced.
Obama planned to visit the University of Southern Maine on Wednesday as part of his campaign to pressure Congress to act to extend tax cuts for the middle class as part of a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff."
But about five hours after announcing the trip on Friday, the White House released a one-line statement calling it off as the scope of the shootings in Connecticut became clear.
It was unclear late Friday afternoon whether the event will be rescheduled.
The trip to Maine was to be part of the president's recent campaign to ratchet up pressure on Republicans in Congress to allow tax rates to rise on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Republicans have insisted that any package to avert the fiscal cliff and reduce the federal deficit must include detailed spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs.
Without congressional action, rates will rise for nearly all taxpayers on Jan. 1. At the same time, federal agencies will begin implementing about $110 billion in across-the-board spending cuts.
But political talk over the fiscal cliff quickly subsided on Friday as the nation absorbed the news from Connecticut.
During an emotional White House briefing, Obama said he reacted to the shooting incident not as president but as a parent. He said "our hearts are broken today" and called on the nation to "be at our best as Americans" to help support those affected by the tragedy.
"I know there's not a parent in America who does not feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old," said Obama, wiping away a tear and taking a long pause as he spoke. "They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own."
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An American flag flies at half-staff over the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in honor of the Connecticut elementary school shooting victims. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)