Congress Leaders, Obama to Meet Tomorrow at White House

Congress Leaders to Meet With Obama Tomorrow, Durbin Says
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, sits with House Speaker John Boehner, Republican from Ohio, second from left, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, third from right, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, second from right, and Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat from Illinois, right, at the start of a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on July 10, 2011. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama plans to meet with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders at the White House tomorrow as a year-end budget deadline approaches.

House Republican leaders also announced the chamber will meet on Dec. 30 -- its first Sunday session in more than two years -- as lawmakers seek to resolve their impasse before at least $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases begin in January.

“We are coming up against a hard deadline here,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said on the chamber’s floor today in Washington. “This is a conversation we should have had months ago.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and McConnell are scheduled to attend the meeting in the afternoon, said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage. The meeting will take place at 3 p.m. Washington time, according to a congressional aide with knowledge of the plans.

If Congress does nothing, taxes will go up in 2013 by an average of $3,446 for U.S. households, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington. Tax filings for as many as two-thirds of U.S. taxpayers could be delayed into at least late March. Defense spending would be cut, and the economy would probably enter a recession in the first half of 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

‘Don’t Know’

McConnell “is eager to hear from the president,” his spokesman Don Stewart said in an e-mailed statement.

Asked whether he expected Obama to push a specific proposal at the meeting, Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, said, “I wouldn’t be surprised, but I don’t know that for sure.”

“He came all the way back from Hawaii, and I’m sure it isn’t just to share a cup of tea,” said Durbin, of Illinois, referring to Obama’s overnight flight to Washington from his Christmas vacation with his family. “A lot depends on the president’s meeting tomorrow with the leaders and whether that results in a proposal and whether there is any understanding of how that might come to a vote in the House and the Senate.”

Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck said that during tomorrow’s meeting, “he will continue to stress that the House has already passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff and now the Senate must act.”

Losses Pared

Markets pared losses following the announcement of the House session on Dec. 30. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had fallen as much as 1.3 percent on mounting concern that no deal would be reached.

Reid met with McConnell in the Republican’s office. Asked what they discussed, Reid said, “Senate business.” Asked whether they talked about the budget, Reid said, “Nope.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who announced plans for the Sunday session on Twitter, didn’t say what action the House plans to take. He said the House may meet through Jan. 2, the day before the next session of Congress will convene. The House held a brief pro-forma session today, although most members weren’t in Washington.

During a conference call with fellow House Republicans, Boehner said the Senate should act on House-passed measures that would carry out Republicans’ plan to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, said an aide who requested anonymity to discuss the call.

Public Relations

One lawmaker on the call said several House Republicans agreed with plans for the weekend session, even if only to wait for the Senate to act. The members were concerned that Democrats were winning the public relations battle on the budget talks, said the lawmaker, who requested anonymity.

The House last convened on a Sunday on March 21, 2010, to vote on Obama’s health-care legislation. The House has met on 16 Sundays since World War II, according to records of the House clerk and historian’s offices.

Reid said the House should back Democrats’ plan to extend expiring tax cuts on income of married couples up to $250,000. Republicans oppose raising tax rates on any income level.

“We know that the Republicans have buried themselves in procedural roadblocks to everything we try to do around here,” Reid said.

Referring to Boehner and McConnell, he said, “Any time the speaker and the Republican leader come to the president and say we’ve got a deal for you, the president’s door is always open.”

Market Reaction

The S&P 500 dropped 0.1 percent to 1,418.03 at 4 p.m. in New York, after earlier falling as much as 1.3 percent. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 8.4 percent below the 30-day average at this time of day. The benchmark Treasury 10-year note yield declined two basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 1.73 percent at 4:32 p.m. in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.

“I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic,” Vice President Joe Biden told reporters while leaving the Capitol after swearing in new Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, a Democrat who succeeds the late Senator Daniel Inouye.

When asked what Obama’s administration is seeking in a potential plan, Biden said, “You tell me what will attract Republican votes, and I will tell you.”

Earlier today, Reid said the budget dispute probably wouldn’t be resolved before Jan. 1 because Republicans wouldn’t cooperate.

“I don’t know time-wise how it can happen now,” Reid said, blaming Boehner and McConnell.

Phone Calls

Obama called Reid, Boehner, McConnell and Pelosi late yesterday to receive an update on the negotiations, said Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman.

“There’s always hope, there are a few days,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said in an interview. “It’s so important to resolve this that the president, the speaker, Senator Reid, McConnell, they’re all talking trying to find a way out of this.”

Representative Steve LaTourette, a retiring Ohio Republican, said Boehner and Cantor didn’t say during the conference call what legislation the House may take up Dec. 30 and on the following days if the Senate doesn’t act on budget legislation.

Obama’s administration is considering options on the budget and other expiring legislation such as extended unemployment benefits, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat, said at a news conference.

House Bill

The House passed a bill in August that would extend the expiring tax cuts for all income levels, and another bill Dec. 20 to replace the slated automatic spending cuts -- much of which target defense programs -- with other reductions. The House hasn’t addressed some expiring provisions, including a scheduled pay cut to doctors under Medicare and expanded unemployment insurance.

The Senate voted in July to extend the income tax cuts enacted under George W. Bush’s presidency for one year for individual income up to $200,000 and income of married couples up to $250,000. Reid said House Democrats and some Republicans would join to pass such a plan. The Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels are set to expire Jan. 1.

The U.S. will reach the $16.4 trillion debt limit Dec. 31, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said yesterday. Treasury can take so-called extraordinary measures to finance about $200 billion in deficits in 2013.

Typically, that would be enough for two months. Geithner didn’t set a specific deadline because of the lack of certainty about tax rates and spending.

The Senate bill is S. 3412. The House bills are H.R. 8 and H.R. 6684.

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