WASHINGTON – President Obama said he was “modestly optimistic” that Senate leaders could reach an agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, but he said that if the effort fails, he’ll demand a vote on his basic proposal to protect middle-class taxpayers from seeing their taxes rise.
Speaking to reporters in the White House on Friday evening, a stern Obama tried to ramp up the pressure on lawmakers as they cobble together a deal before a potentially growth-crippling combination of tax increases and spending cuts take effect in the new year.
“The hour for immediate action is here. It is now,” Obama said.
Obama spoke shortly after meeting with top congressional leaders at the White House, during which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed try to come up with a proposal before the Dec. 31 deadline.
The president called the meeting “good and constructive” and suggested there was still time to reach a compromise. But if lawmakers failed to find common ground, Obama said, he has asked Reid to bring up a vote on a scaled-back version of his original proposal.
“If members of House or the Senate want to vote no, they can,” Obama said. “But we should let everybody vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work.”