President Obama arrived back in DC on Thursday morning after having cut short his vacation in Hawaii, following late-night calls with top Congressional leaders:
Obama made calls from Hawaii late Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said. Obama was seeking an update on the state of fiscal cliff talks before departing on an overnight flight back to Washington, Brundage said.
The White House provided no details about the conversations. The House is in recess pending action in the Senate, which convened Thursday amid a sense of gloom about chances for a deal to avert more than $500 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes set to hit in January.
McConnell “is happy to review what the president has in mind, but to date, the Senate Democrat majority has not put forward a plan,” a spokesman for the Republican leader said. “When they do, members on both sides of the aisle will review the legislation and make decisions on how best to proceed.”
And of course, this morning we were treated to the usual cockeyed floor rant from Harry Reid about how, if Speaker Boehner would only stop ruling with such an iron fist, the version of Obama’s cliff proposal he wants to see happen would undoubtedly pass with the requisite centrist-Republican votes it would need.
Senator Harry Reid delivers a statement on the fiscal cliff condemning the actions of Republican leadership, saying he “can’t imagine their consciences. They are out there, wherever they are … and we’re here trying to get something done.”
“Everyone knows that if they had brought up the Senate-passed bill, it would pass overwhelmingly. But the speaker says, no we can’t do that,” Reid said on the Senate floor this morning. “It’s [the House] being operated by a dictatorship of the speaker.”
In response, a spokesman for Boehner said in a statement, “Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more. The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.”
While the barb-trading about to whom the real onus belongs is to be expected, I don’t know about Reid’s point about the clock just running too short; we still have almost five days to go to make a deal, and with all of the deep-seated political fallout at stake here, a ‘compromise’ probably wasn’t ever going to happen until the eleventh hour when the political pressure was maxed out. That said, the possibility of going over the cliff is gaining its own momentum, and as reliably eager as Reid is to put all of the blame on Republicans, he could easily make more of his own moves if he had any real desire:
“The House has acted on two bills which collectively would avert the entire fiscal cliff if enacted. Those bills await action by the Senate,” House GOP leaders said in their statement. “If the Senate will not approve and send them to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House. Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments. The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act. The lines of communication remain open, and we will continue to work with our colleagues to avert the largest tax hike in American history.” …
The intransigence of both sides has made a deal against the clock seem increasingly unlikely. But if anything gets brokered, it likely now has to come from the Senate, where Reid and McConnell largely negotiated the August 2011 debt deal that helped bring Congress into the situation it finds itself now. Senate Republican aides suggested McConnell might get involved in talks but that Senate Democrats have to bring something else to the table than the tax bill they’re pushing.