After making a round of late-night calls, President Barack Obama plans to meet with top congressional leaders in person on Friday in a last-ditch attempt to avoid going over the fiscal cliff on January 1.
A White House official confirmed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be in attendance.
The president and lawmakers are in a time crunch to reach a budget deal–they only have until the end of this year–to stop $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts from kicking into effect.
The Senate reconvened on Thursday, while the House of Representatives, which took a longer vacation, is due back in session on Sunday at 6:30pm ET. If you do the math, that allows Congress only 29 ½ hours to pass legislation–not a lot of time, even for the most skilled procrastinators in Congress.
Reid seemed doubtful they could reach to an agreement by the deadline, warning that going over the cliff “looks like that is where we’re headed.”
“I don’t know time-wise how it can happen now,” said a gloomy Reid on the Senate floor Thursday, noting his absent colleagues in the House and reminded everyone of the Republican gridlock.
“This has been going on for years–they cannot cross over the threshold that has been built by Grover Norquist. People who are rich, who make a lot of money, they’re not opposing raising the taxes on them. The only people in America who don’t think taxes should be raised on the rich are the Republicans who work in this building!”
Despite the ticking clock, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was slightly more optimistic. “Hopefully, there is still time for an agreement of some kind that saves the taxpayers from a wholly, wholly preventable economic crisis,” McConnell said in a dueling speech on the Senate floor. He said Senate Republicans “aren’t about to write a blank check for anything Senate Democrats put forward just because we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff.”
Speaker Boehner’s office issued a statement on Thursday night, shifting the focus back to the Senate: “Tomorrow, Speaker Boehner will attend a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, where he will continue to stress that the House has already passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff and now the Senate must act.”
Democrats want Republicans to support extend existing Bush-era tax cuts for all–except households earning more than $250,000 a year.