POLITICS

Hill leaders optimistic about “fiscal-cliff” deal

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Brian Hughes

Congressional leaders emerged from their first White House meeting on the “fiscal cliff” Friday optimistic that a framework had been formed to keep taxes from skyrocketing at the end of the year.

House and Senate leadership met with President Obama for roughly an hour Friday morning, where the Washington power brokers laid out proposals for how to avert a series of deep spending cuts and massive tax increases that would hit Americans in a few weeks.

Republicans would like Democrats to make concessions on spending in exchange for tax reform. Democrats are pushing their conservative counterparts to raise taxes on households making more than $250,000 annually.

“I believe that the framework that I outlined [at] our meeting today is consistent with the president’s call for a fair and balanced approach,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. “To show our seriousness, we put revenue on the table as long as it’s accompanied by significant spending cuts.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who joined Boehner, will now try to sell their respective blueprints on Capitol Hill.

The group struck a rare bipartisan tone — at least publicly.

“We have the cornerstones of being able to work something out,” Reid said. “We have arrived at a point where we all know that something has to be done.”

Ahead of the meeting, Obama called for “tough compromises,” looking to avert the gridlock that doomed similar conversations last year to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

“I think we’re all aware that we have some urgent business to do,” Obama said at the White House. “My hope is that this is going to be the beginning of a fruitful process.”

Obama’s opening marker is $1.6 trillion in higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations over the next decade, with modest cuts to entitlement programs.

Neither Obama nor congressional leaders responded to questions from reporters.

Republicans are adamantly against raising income tax rates at all but have offered to close tax loopholes and other deductions. Obama campaigned on a pledge to end the so-called Bush-tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent. And Democrats, at least thus far, have shown little appetite for cutting entitlement programs as Republicans demand.

Regardless, all parties recognized the consequences of not reaching a deal.

“We had a recognition that every person in America knows – that we must reach agreement,” Pelosi said. “Because if we do not reach agreement not only will me miss the opportunity for doing something good for our economy and lifting the spirits and the confidence of our country, we will have an economic downturn that must be avoided.”

 

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