Obama, congressional leaders to meet

Dec. 27, 2012 at 8:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama will meet with leaders of Congress to try to avert tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect next week, a White House official said.

Citing an administration official it did not identify, Politico reported Thursday the White House meeting has been set for Friday.

The report came as House Republicans said they will call the House back into session Sunday to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the Senate floor to accuse House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, of operating a "dictatorship."

"The American people I don't think understand, the House of Representatives is operating without the House of Representatives," Reid said. "It's being operated with a dictatorship of the Speaker, not allowing the vast majority of the House of Representatives to get what they want."

Reid accused Boehner of being more concerned about preserving his speakership than dealing with the issue, and blasted Boehner for sending House Republicans home for Christmas with the issue far from unresolved and no schedule for their return to Capitol Hill.

A short time after Reid's broadside, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., tweeted the House would be back into session Sunday night, little more than a day before Bush-era tax cuts and deep spending cuts are scheduled to kick in.

"The House will return for legislative business on Sunday, December 30. First votes are expected at 6:30 p.m.," Cantor said. He followed up, saying the House likely would be in session through Jan. 2.

Obama cut short his Hawaiian vacation and returned to Washington early Thursday. White House officials told reporters aboard Air Force One the president, while in Hawaii, called Boehner, Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Prospects for a deal, however, apparently were bleak.

Boehner said last week the ball is in Democrats' hands.

"What Obama has outlined as minimally acceptable to him doesn't come within a country mile of passing either the House or the Senate," a senior Republican aide told Politico of the president's latest proposal. "No negotiation can change the fundamentals."

"Unless Boehner and McConnell are willing to buck their Tea Party members, then I see nothing happening," a Democratic aide told the Washington newspaper.

House Republicans said Wednesday Reid must move forward a bill to avert the so-called fiscal cliff or else he would be derelict in his duties, The Hill and Politico reported.

Boehner, Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. and Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said the Senate must either send the legislation to Obama as it reads currently or amend and return it to the House.

Reid predicted the country was headed over the fiscal cliff and began to pointedly blame Republicans.

"New Years Eve is fast approaching, and for decades and decades the American people have watched the ball drop in Times Square," Reid said. "But this year, Mr. President, the American people are waiting for the ball to drop but it's not going to be a good drop. Because Americans' taxes are approaching the wrong direction. Come the first of this year, Americans will have less income than they have today."

Reid said even if Boehner agreed to have a vote extending the Bush tax rates for incomes up to $250,000 -- as Democrats have demanded -- legislation might not make it through Congress in time to prevent tax hikes from beginning next year.

The tax cuts, which have been extended several times, are to expire at the same time across-the-board spending cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 take effect -- pushing the economy over the so-called fiscal cliff economists say could throw the U.S. economy into recession.

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