President Barack Obama defended his compromise with Republicans on extending tax cuts for wealthier Americans, saying it was urgent to keep millions of Americans from losing unemployment insurance payments.

Obama said he was not willing to engage in a protracted political battle with Republicans or risk collateral damage of that fight.

I'm not here to play games with the American people or the health of the economy, he said, defending himself against concerns from some Democrats that he didn't hold his ground on rejecting the extension for those earning more than $250,000 per year.

If we do nothing the average family will see taxes go up $3,000 dollars and 2 million people will see an end to unemployment insurance, he said.

Obama also said that the deal, while not as significant a boost as the economic stimulus package which passed in 2009, would provide more economic growth than most economic forecasters had expected.

Every economist I've talked to suggests that this will help economic growth and this will help job growth over the next several months. That is the main criteria by which I made this decision, he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said it was up to the President to submit the bill to Congress for consideration, but he expected it to come to the Senate before the House.

I'm optimistic that a large majority of Republicans will support it, he said.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, said concerns among his party members were wide ranging.

He said more work was needed to gain support for the proposal.

Obama and Congressional Republicans came to the compromise Monday.

Negotiators for the administration and Republican leadership reached a deal that would cut payroll taxes by 2 percent, extend all Bush era tax cuts for two years, and extend unemployment insurance for an additional 13 months.

Obama said Monday that, temporarily, the deal will provide a 'more generous treatment of the estate tax than I think is wise or warranted.

The 2 percent Social Security payroll tax cut from the current 6.2 percent rate would give a $120 billion boost to the economy next year, White House officials say.