Meet as Sequester, Tax Hikes Loom
President Obama and congressional leaders were preparing to make a last-ditch try for a deal -- or at least a plan -- to avert the imminent fiscal crisis, with a high-stakes meeting scheduled at the White House for Friday afternoon just days before the deadline for action.
The meeting with Obama and the top four leaders on the Hill is their first since Nov. 16. The president has been pressing all sides to come together on a scaled-down package that can at least shield most Americans from a tax hike beginning next week.
But hope was fading for any agreement or legislation before Jan. 1, as accusations began to fly about who was to blame for a looming $500 billion tax increase .
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on the floor Thursday that "it looks like" the nation is going to miss the deadline.
Reid put all the blame on House Speaker John Boehner, likening him to a dictator and claiming he was putting his speakership before the good of the country.
"John Boehner seems to care more about keeping his speakership than about keeping the nation on firm financial footing," Reid said. "He's waiting until Jan. 3 to get re-elected as speaker before he gets serious with negotiations because he has so many people...that won't follow what he wants."
Boehner's office quickly shot back: "Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more. The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor that his party has "bent over backwards."
"We stepped way, way out of our comfort zone," he said. We wanted an agreement, but we had no takers. The phone never rang. So here we are five days from the new year and we might finally start talking."
But he also warned, "Republicans aren't about to write a blank check for anything the Senate Democrats put forward just because we find ourselves on the edge of the cliff."
Each side continues to call on the other to act.
Reid, on the floor, urged the House to pass a Senate bill that would extend current tax rates for most families but let them rise on top earners. Reid, who wants Boehner to let the bill pass with mostly Democratic votes, claimed the chamber was "being operated with a dictatorship of the speaker."
Boehner put the onus on the Senate, referring to two Republican-passed bills in his chamber -- one extending current tax rates for everyone; the other rearranging the $110 billion in spending cuts set to hit next year.
Buck said late Thursday that Boehner will attend the White House meeting, "where he will continue to stress that the House has already passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff and now the Senate must act."
McConnell's aides, meanwhile, claimed they expected some sort of plan to emerge from the Democratic side.
After Obama spoke separately with all four congressional leaders Wednesday before leaving Hawaii, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said: "The leader is happy to review what the president has in mind, but to date, the Senate Democrat majority has not put forward a plan. When they do, members on both sides of the aisle will review the legislation and make decisions on how best to proceed."
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 12/28/2012
Editor's Note: The US House of Representatives has acted, passing two -- two -- bills that avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," which affects taxpayers more than the federal government. The Senate has done nothing -- nothing. And the President has done less. Perhaps that is because both Pres. Obama and Congressional Progressives want higher taxes and less spending on the military...Who would have thought...oh, right, everyone who was screaming that the "sequester" supercommittee Republicans were out of their minds for making such a stupid deal...
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