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Obama, congressional leaders to meet to avoid 'fiscal cliff'

December 27, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • President Obama steps off Marine One upon returning to the White House on Thursday. Obama returned to Washington under pressure to forge a deal with Republicans to avoid the tax hikes and spending cuts of the "fiscal cliff."
President Obama steps off Marine One upon returning to the White House on… (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty…)

WASHINGTON — President Obama has invited congressional leaders to the White House to try to salvage negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff” just days before nearly all taxpayers are due to see their taxes rise.

The White House said the president will meet Friday afternoon with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

Obama last met with the foursome on Nov. 16 at the outset of the effort to avoid the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts dubbed the fiscal cliff. Economists say that the higher income-tax rates and lower government spending could send the economy back into recession.

After that optimistic and upbeat first meeting, negotiations were essentially whittled down to two people — Obama and Boehner. But those talks appeared to have fallen apart last week after Boehner was unable to win support for a his own proposal in the House. The speaker has since left it to the Senate to come up with a plan to avoid the cliff.

A Boehner spokesman said the speaker planned to bring that message to the meeting on Friday, saying that Boehner “will continue to stress that the House has already passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff and now the Senate must act." Both chambers claim they’ve passed the legislation necessary to avoid the cliff.

The House has passed two bills that taken together would extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all taxpayers and would block the across-the-board spending cuts. The Senate has passed legislation that would extend the tax breaks on income less than $250,000.

Finding some middle ground seems increasingly difficult before the Dec. 31 deadline. Still, lawmakers and the president are clearly interested in appearing to be working on the issue up to the final minute.

Twitter: @khennessey

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