Obama to Congress: Your move

December 21, 2012

The biggest news out of President Obama's late Friday news conference might have been the leader of the free world's endorsement of eggnog. 

On the fiscal cliff, however, Obama did not offer up many new details on a potential deal. Rather, the president offered a plea for cooler heads to prevail in Washington after a short Christmas break. 

In conversations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner, Obama asked for a plan he could sign, that would stop the country from going off the fiscal cliff. He said that Congress has 10 days to offer up a deal on the fiscal cliff that he could sign.

Obama floated the rough outlines of a less-ambitious deal than he and Boehner had been negotiating earlier in the week, suggesting that a bill to prevent tax hikes on households making less than $250,000 a year and extend unemployment insurance benefits could be accomplished by the end of the year, even if more complex reforms to the tax code and entitlement programs must wait for another day.

"In the next few days, I’ve asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction," Obama told reporters. "That’s an achievable goal that can get done in 10 days."

Whether Congress and the White House can achieve that goal, however, still remains to be seen. Boehner had to pull a vote on his Plan B after he couldn't rally enough support from House Republicans. Wrangling enough support in the House for legislation to avert the fiscal cliff could prove even more challenging.

Obama sounded an optimistic note, that leaving town for a few days would give "everyone some perspective" on how best to move forward. The president departs for Hawaii later tonight and, next week, we'll learn a bit more about whether the eggnog strategy succeeds. 

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Ezra Klein · December 21, 2012