Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 | 10:45 a.m.
President Barack Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House on Friday for the first of what is likely to be several lame-duck-session meetings to avert the fiscal cliff.
No deal was struck in the hour they spent behind closed doors. But the leaders emerged sounding the most authentic notes of agreement and compromise they have since the election.
“We have the cornerstones of being able to work something out,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “We’re both going to have to give up some of the things we know are a problem.”
House Speaker John Boehner said he “outlined a framework that deals with reforming our tax code and reforming our spending.” That framework, he said, includes space for revenues and is “consistent with the president’s call for a fair and balanced approach.”
Of course, that’s no guarantee that the fiscal cliff talks will go off without a hitch. A year and a half ago, when the congressional quartet started meeting with the president over the debt ceiling, they sounded equally optimistic.
That process got mired in partisan discord, dragged the country to the brink of defaulting on its debts and, though an agreement was reached, it left the parties so bitterly divided that they weren’t able to come to an agreement on a requisite second round of deficit reduction measures.
That’s partially why the country is facing the so-called fiscal cliff. Sequestration cuts, put into place when Congress couldn’t strike that second deficit deal, are set to go into effect on Jan. 1, just when tax rates are set to rise.
Reid attempted to quash concerns that the country should brace itself for a repeat of the standoffs from the summer of 2011.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve dealt with these issues,” Reid said. “There’s no more ‘we’re going to do it some other time.’ We’re going to do it now. This isn’t something we’re going to wait until the last day of December to get it done.”
The next session of Congress begins Jan. 3. That means the 112th Congress can work right up to that morning. But congressional sessions rarely go past Christmas.
Congress is not scheduled to consider legislation during Thanksgiving week. Leaders are set to meet with the president to discuss the fiscal cliff after they return from the holiday break.