(WASHINGTON) — Washington brinkmanship appears to have created a last minute chance for the White House and Congress to agree on a plan to avoid sending the country over the fiscal cliff.
President Obama emerged from a White House summit Friday evening to say “we had a constructive meeting today” and that he was “optimistic” that they could devise a proposal ahead of a Jan. 1 deadline that would otherwise automatically trigger a wide range of higher taxes and steep budget cuts. Economists fear that such a combination could throw the country into a recession.
The president lamented that a deal is coming down to the final hours.
“The American people are watching what we do… (their) patience is already thin,” the president said. “It’s deja vu all over again.”
He added later that for Americans the repeated last second efforts to dodge economic crises “is mind boggling to them. It has to stop.”
After leaving the summit, the Senate Democratic and Republican leaders announced on the Senate floor that they’re aiming to have a proposal on the fiscal cliff drawn up by Sunday, with the potential to put it on the Senate floor that afternoon.
“We had a good meeting down at the White House,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “We are engaged in discussions, the majority leader, myself and the White House in the hopes that we can come forward as early as Sunday and have a recommendation that I can make to my conference and the majority leader can make to his conference.”
McConnell said that he is “hopeful and optimistic” and they’ll be “working hard” over the next 24 hours “to see if we can get there.”
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., echoed those sentiments.
“We certainly hope something will come from that,” Reid said of Friday’s White House meeting. “The Republican leader and I and our staffs are working to see what we can come up with. We shouldn’t take a long time to do that.”
The Senate will come in at 1 p.m. on Sunday. There will be a caucus meeting in the afternoon. Reid says he hopes by that time on Sunday there will be a determination if a proposal can be brought to the floor.
“There was not a lot of hilarity in the meeting. Everyone knows how important it is, it was a very serious meeting,” Reid said on Friday’s White House meeting.
Reid warned that whatever they come up with it will be “imperfect.”
“Some people aren’t going to like it,” Reid said. “Some people will like it less but that’s where we are. And I feel confident that we have an obligation to do the best we can, and that was made very clear at the White House.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ruth Brown, Idaho Press-Tribune
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Marissa Morrison, KIVI
Heather Long, CNN