Lawmakers Meet With President in Last-Ditch Effort to Avert the 'Fiscal Cliff'
JEFFREY BROWN: The final weekend has now arrived before the fiscal cliff hits on New Year's Day, and, with it, more than $600 million in tax hikes and spending cuts.
In a last bid for a deal, President Obama stated his terms face to face to top Republicans and Democrats.
Congressional leaders arrived at the White House this afternoon for their first group meeting with the president since Nov. 16. Vice President Biden and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also attended. But there was little to suggest the makings of an 11th-hour bargain.
Instead, a source familiar with the meeting told the NewsHour the president is sticking with his offer from last Friday. It included keeping the Bush era tax break for the middle class, but raising tax rates on incomes over $250,000 a year. The president also wants to extend unemployment benefits for some two million Americans who will lose them in the new year.
And the proposal would delay any spending cuts. The president asked for an up-or-down vote on his plan unless there is a counterproposal that will pass both the House and Senate. A little more than an hour after the meeting began, several participants were seen leaving.
And back at the Capitol, the Senate's Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered their takes on the meeting.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: We had a good meeting down at the White House. We are engaged in discussions, the majority leader, myself and the White House, in the hopes that we can come forward as early as Sunday and have a recommendation that I can make to my conference and the majority leader can make to his conference.
And so we will be working hard to try to see if we can get there in the next 24 hours. And so I'm hopeful and optimistic.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: This is -- whatever we come up with is going to be imperfect. And some people aren't going to like it. Some people will like it less. But that's where we are. And I feel confident that we have an obligation to do the best we can and that was made very clear.
JEFFREY BROWN: An aide to House Speaker John Boehner said, if the Senate passes a bill, the House will take it up and either accept or amend it.
And a short time ago, President Obama appeared in the White House Briefing Room with a statement. Here is some of what he said.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We had a constructive meeting today.
Sens. Reid and McConnell are discussing a potential agreement where we can get a bipartisan bill out of the Senate over to the House and done in a timely fashion, so that we met the Dec. 31 deadline.
But, given how things have been working in this town, we always have to wait and see until it actually happens.
The one thing that the American people shouldn't have to wait and see is some sort of action. So, if we don't see an agreement between the two leaders in the Senate, I expect a bill to go on the floor.
And I have asked Sen. Reid to do this. Put a bill on the floor that makes sure that taxes on middle-class families don't go up, that unemployment insurance is still available for two million people, and that lays the groundwork then for additional deficit reduction and economic growth steps that we can take in the new year.
JEFFREY BROWN: All of this still developing. And we will have more on all of it with Mark Shields and David Brooks later in the program.