Optimism erupts in D.C. as parties focus on stripped-down plan to avert 'fiscal cliff'
Senate leaders met with President Obama at the White House on Friday and said they would work through the weekend and bring senators back into session on Sunday, in hopes of approving an agreement to protect taxpayers, the unemployed and the nation's economy from the worst effects of the “fiscal cliff.”
“I'm hopeful and optimistic,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
In a televised statement to reporters late in the day, Obama said he had a “good and constructive” meeting with the four congressional leaders. “The hour for immediate action is here. It is now,”' Obama said. He added, “I'm modestly optimistic that an agreement can be achieved.”
At the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and McConnell agreed to try to move forward with a stripped down package.
According to people briefed on the meeting, the package would protect millions of taxpayers from the bite of the costly alternative minimum tax and keep unemployment benefits flowing to 2 million people who would otherwise be cut off in January. It is also likely to protect doctors from a steep cut in Medicare reimbursements set to hit in January.
The two sides were still haggling over where to set the threshold for income tax hikes and how to handle the tax on inherited estates. On income taxes, Obama has proposed letting tax rates rise on income over $250,000 a year, but Republicans have in recent days expressed interest in a compromise that would lift the threshold, allowing taxes to rise only for households earning more than $400,000 a year — Obama's most recent proposal in fiscal cliff negotiations with Boehner.
On the estate tax, Republicans want to maintain the current structure, which exempts estates worth up to $5 million and taxes those at only 35 percent. Obama has proposed a $3.5 million exemption, and a tax rate above that amount of 45 percent.
Obama had insisted that Republican leaders support his plan to let taxes rise on those earning more than $250,000 a year or to offer a concrete plan that could win Democratic support.
As congressional leaders from both parties gathered for a high-stakes meeting at the White House, Obama laid no new offers on the table, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Instead, Obama insisted that the package he outlined would pass the House and the Senate if Republican leaders would stop blocking the legislation and put it to a vote, permitting moderates in both parties to work their will.
Those gathered around the table agreed that the next step should be for the Senate to take bipartisan action, the aides said.
After a little more than an hour of talks, Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were seen leaving the White House without speaking to waiting reporters. A White House official said the talks began about 3:10 p.m. and ended at about 4:15 p.m.
Reid and McConnell returned to the Capitol, where more than 20 senators from both parties crowded around McConnell on the Senate floor.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the senate's second ranking Republican, said McConnell told fellow Republicans that he was “optimistic” a deal was developing.
However, McConnell shared with colleagues no details of the elements of a possible agreement.
When Reid addressed the full Senate moments later, he called the White House meeting “instructive.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Astronauts to hitch U.S. ride to space station
- Astronauts to hitch U.S. ride to space station
- Door left ajar to boots on ground to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
- Wallenda’s next challenge: Chicago
- Obama plans broader counterterror mission against Islamic State
- Michigan gets 2nd drenching
- U.S. to assign 3,000 from U.S. military to fight Ebola
- Ohio bus driver dies removing girl from harm’s way
- HealthCare.gov website’s security flaws put users’ personal info at risk
- 3,000 U.S. troops to join fight against Ebola with $763M plan
- White House committed to ethanol, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack says