In an effort to avert a year-end fiscal crisis that has put markets on edge, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders met Friday and emerged from the meeting sounding positive and optimistic.
Significance differences between the two sides remain and the toughest issues remain unresolved, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The top lawmakers still emerged from the White House meeting, which lasted over an hour, with uncharacteristic optimism that they would reach a deal in the coming weeks.
The meeting resulted in a rise in stock prices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 100 points. “This isn’t something we’re going to wait until the last day of December to get it done,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said after the meeting. Republican and Democratic leaders made a rare joint appearance outside the White House in a deliberate and overt show of comity. “We have a plan. We’re going to move forward on it.”
Both parties agreed to make concessions to achieve a deal – Democrats showed a willingness to curb entitlement programs, such as Medicare, and Republicans showed a willingness to raise tax revenue.
The leaders are expected to convene for another meeting after the Thanksgiving holiday, after sorting through details of what a framework will look like next week.
Obama and congressional leaders are working to avoid a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that begin early next year if Congress doesn’t pass an alternative plan.
Obama reiterated his insistence that tax rates for families making less than $250,000 a year should be immediately extended and rates for the top 2% of income earners be allowed to rise. The WSJ reports Republicans gave no ground on their opposition to raising rates, according to aides familiar with the meeting, and are demanding any move on taxes be accompanied by entitlement changes.
“We fully understand you cannot save the country until you have entitlement programs that fit the demographics of a changing America,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). “We are prepared to put revenues on the table provided we fix the real problem.”
It appeared clear that all sides were converging on similar ideas. Although the tax issue is far from resolved, participants agreed to focus on their ares of general agreement instead of highlighting differences. This, WSJ Reports, is a remarkable shift in tone just 10 days after an election campaign marked by bitter rhetoric over taxes.
“Today, the President met with the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress at the White House for over an hour,” the White House said in a statement. “The President and the leadership had a constructive meeting and agreed to do everything possible to find a solution that averts the so-called ‘fiscal cliff,’ and to work together to find a balanced approach to reduce our deficit that includes both revenues and cuts in spending and encourages our long-term economic and job growth. Both sides agreed that while there may be differences in our preferred approaches, we will continue a constructive process to find a solution and come to a conclusion as soon as possible.”