President Barack Obama called on Senate leaders to come to a bipartisan agreement to avert the year-end fiscal cliff following a meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House.”The hour for immediate action is here,” Obama said during a press conference at the White House. “It is now.”
Obama said he was “modestly optimistic” about an agreement. A bipartisan deal now lies in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will try to hash out an agreement on Saturday.
“This is deja vu all over again,” Obama said. “The American people are watching what we do here and obviously their patience is already thin. The American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy.”
Obama left open two options as the deadline looms in about 77 hours:
- Reid and McConnell agree on a deal and bring it to a floor vote.
- If they cannot agree, Obama has asked Reid to bring a basic package to the floor for an up-or-down vote.
According to reports, Obama did not offer a “new” proposal during the White House meeting, but reiterated previous stances on raising income-tax rates on income above $250,000. Obama’s plan would also extend jobless benefits, delay some spending cuts and halt the expansion of the alternative minimum tax.Obama said that if Reid and McConnell cannot agree on a plan, he would ask Reid to bring the White House’s original plan to the floor for a simple up-or-down vote.
“If an agreement isn’t reached … I will urge Sen. Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up-or-down vote. If members of the House or Senate want to vote no, they can. But we should let everybody vote,” Obama said.
They kept sinking after-hours, but then the participants of the White House meeting provided a new dose of optimism. The day started with new reports that Obama would offer some type of “scaled-back” offer, which had been expected by McConnell on Thursday. Contrary to McConnell’s expectations and the reports, Obama did not propose anything new — and when that news started filtering out, markets tanked.Obama’s statement in the Brady Press Briefing room came at the end of a frantic day that ultimately ended up providing more hope for a deal but sent markets tumbling earlier in the day.
McConnell and Reid appeared on the Senate floor and called the meeting “hopeful” and “constructive.” They said they would work together over the weekend to try to produce a bipartisan deal that could pass both chambers of Congress.
Reid warned that any bipartisan deal would be “imperfect,” but that he remained “hopeful” something would come from the meeting.
“Some people aren’t going to like it,” Reid said. “Some people will like it less, but that’s where we are. I feel confident that we have an obligation to do the best we can, and that was made very clear at the White House.”
The Senate will meet at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Reid said that he was targeting Sunday afternoon for a time when a proposal could be brought to a floor vote.
Later at the White House, Obama reiterated the urgency for a deal, saying that the public was rightly frustrated as the deadline looms.
“Outside of Washington, no one understands how this can be a repeat pattern,” Obama said. “Ordinary folks, they do their jobs. They meet deadlines.”