President Obama(Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP)
President Obama and congressional leaders will spend Friday afternoon
discussing short-term plans to avoid the tax hikes and budget cuts that
kick in next week if the nation goes over the so-called "fiscal cliff."
House officials said they wouldn't comment before a 3 p.m. meeting
between Obama and the leaders but noted that the president has offered
to work on a short-term deal to beat the Dec. 31 deadline for the cliff.
leaving for vacation in Hawaii a week ago, Obama said he asked
Republican and Democratic leaders to "work toward a package that
prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment
insurance for 2 million Americans and lays the groundwork for further
work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal."
returned to the White House on Thursday. On Friday afternoon, he meets
with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid, D-Nev.; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
In recent weeks, the White
House and Congress had hoped for a major deal to reduce the federal debt
that now exceeds $16 trillion. They have discussed spending cuts, steps
toward a tax overhaul and changes to entitlement programs and ways to
address the debt ceiling.
With time growing short, however, the parties are now discussing a scaled-back agreement ahead of next week's deadline.
of their likely topics at the Friday meeting: the fate of the George W.
Bush tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of the year, leading
to a rise in income tax rates for all Americans.
proposed extending the Bush tax rates for most Americans, but ending
them for those who make more than $400,000 a year.
Republicans oppose any rise in income tax rates, though Boehner has
offered to end the Bush tax cuts for those who make more than $1 million
In the meantime, some officials are already talking about
what happens after the country goes over the cliff on Tuesday, New
"It looks like that is where we're headed," Reid said
on Thursday, if only because so little time is left before the end of
Lawmakers are now starting to say that the next Congress
-- the one that will be sworn in Jan. 3 -- will have to work on a debt
reduction deal, including legislation to deal retroactively with the tax
increases that take effect on Jan. 1.
One advantage of this
approach: Senate and House members in the next Congress would be able to
argue next year that they are voting to cut taxes; the tax hikes would
already be in effect.
Reid blamed Boehner and the Republican-run
House, saying they have refused to even vote on plans to reduce the debt
with higher taxes on the wealthy as well as budget cuts.
Boehner said it's up to Reid and the Senate Democrats to act on measures passed by the House that emphasize reduced spending.
the partisan impasse, there is overwhelming agreement on Capitol Hill
that Washington will at least extend the current tax rates for the
majority of Americans. "It'll get resolved, and most Americans, almost
all Americans, won't pay higher taxes next year," said Sen. Lamar
What remains uncertain is whether Congress will
send legislation to the president before the Dec. 31 "fiscal cliff"
deadline, or in the days or weeks after when the tax rates have expired.
"That'll either be settled this weekend by our votes or it'll be
settled after the first of the year," Alexander said.
achieve a broad deficit reduction deal are all but gone, said Alexander
and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who outlined their proposal Friday to deal
with the next budgetary crisis facing Washington - a vote to raise the
$16.4 trillion debt ceiling, the nation's borrowing authority.
for America, the next line in the sand is going to be the debt
ceiling," said Corker, who outlined a GOP proposal to raise the debt
ceiling by $1 trillion in exchange for entitlement changes to Medicare,
Social Security and Medicaid.
Corker said he believes the White
House meeting is for "optics" and will not produce any significant
bipartisan agreement. He said senators, during a series of votes Friday,
were discussing on the floor how to bring up a bill to address the
immediate fiscal issues of expiring tax rates and spending cuts.
levied a harsh critique of the president and his congressional
colleagues. "It's pretty apparent that we're not going to do what we've
been called to do," he said, "I think that every American should be
disgusted with all of Washington....And it's a shame that we are where we
are, and candidly, that our economy is not going to be what it could
have been the first quarter of this year if we had just done the work
that we were supposed to do by this year end."