President Obama hosted a meeting of the leadership of the House and Senate Friday to see if there could still be a deal put together to avoid the fiscal cliff next Monday night. He said he was “modestly optimistic” that a deal can be passed.
The President said, however, that if no agreement is reached, he asked Majority Leader Harry Reid to “put a bill on the floor for an up or down vote to insure that middle class families do not get hit with a tax hike next week, and 3,000,000 Americans will not lose their unemployment benefits.”
In his brief appearance in the White House press briefing room, the president said that Senator Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are meeting so see if they can come up with a bi-partisan bill. However, the president said, in this town nothing is done until it is done so that is why he asked Senator Reid to put a bill on the floor in any event if he can not come to an agreement with the Republican Leader.
Of course, if McConnell and Reid can not come to an agreement, any Republican Senator can block a vote on the bill Reid would put on the floor. They will do so unless they feel the political price would be too high.
The idea of a bi-partisan bill is that it may be easier for Speaker Boehner to get it passed in the House. If that fails and the bill passed only by Republicans may be DOA in the House.
There is one problem with this approach and that is that any tax or spending bill must arise in the House, not the Senate. There are ways to get around that, but it takes cooperation to accomplish it. There is very little cooperation in Congress.
Another problem is that our future rests on the shoulders of Tea Party Republicans in the House and Senate who would prefer watching the country go over the cliff than accept making the rich to pay a dime more in taxes. Extending unemployment benefits to those still unable to find work is anathema to Republicans as well.
The president may be modestly optimistic, but much of the nation is less optimistic given the fact Congress knew seven months ago that this deadline was approaching, and it has done nothing.
The president addressed that. He said that outside Washington people look at what is going on in this town and scratch their heads. “The American people,” President Obama said, “do their jobs, they meet deadlines, solve problems, and if there is a disagreement, they work it out.” He said they expect the same from their elected leaders and it is mind boggling to them to watch what goes on in Washington.
The President said “We got to get this done,” referring to avoiding the fiscal cliff. He said that economists, business leaders, and others all say we are poised for growth in 2013, but not if we can not solve this. He said there are huge ramifications for the economy if Congress will not act.
The stock market has been up and down for five straight days over the uncertainty of the entire situation. If we go over the cliff, the market will likely respond like it did in 2011 when Congress went to the brink last time, and that will wipe out a lot of net worth.
So with three days before we go over the cliff, we have no assurance Congress will act.
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