Senate leaders hope to come up with a solution to the fiscal cliff crisis in the next 24 hours, after holding a “productive” meeting with President Barack Obama late Friday.
Lawmakers spent about an hour at the White House and left with renewed optimism, the first apparent progress in talks in more than a month.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R–Ky., and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D–Nev., now hope to come up with a compromise by Sunday, when the Senate is scheduled to reconvene. Both men said late Friday they thought a deal could be reached by then.
Several hours after Friday’s meeting, President Obama described the discussion as good, productive, and constructive.
“I am optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time,” he said.
If senators cannot reach an agreement, the president said he would instruct Reid to bring a “balanced” package to the floor for an up or down vote. As long as lawmakers are free to vote, the president said, he’s confident his proposal would pass with bipartisan support.
The president has said since the campaign he wanted to preserve tax cuts for most Americans while raising rates for those making more than $250,000 a year. He also wants Congress to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
More than a month ago, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed to let some tax revenues rise, and last week he proposed a “Plan B” measure to raise rates for those making more than $1 million. But House Republicans baulked at the proposal, and Boehner withdrew the bill before it could be voted on.
If Congress cannot reach an agreement by midnight on Dec. 31, tax rates will go up and all government agencies will experience across-the-board spending cuts.
The stock market, jittery all week over the failed fiscal cliff talks, fell again on Friday. The five-day decline is the longest losing streak for the Dow Jones industrial average since July.
The president warned lawmakers the American people had lost patience with their inability to compromise. No one understands why the country’s leaders would risk giving a “politically self-inflicted wound to our economy,” he said.