By Lori Montgomery and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 7:11 PM
Obama had summoned congressional leaders from both parties for a gathering Thursday to discuss the way forward after the midterm elections. The meeting was to focus on economic concerns, particularly the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 that are set to expire at year's end.
But the White House said in a statement Tuesday night that the meeting had been rescheduled "at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner due to scheduling conflicts in organizing their caucuses." The meeting will instead be held on Nov. 30, the White House said.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell (R-Ky.), said earlier that the meeting "was never confirmed in the first place." Stewart added: "The meeting will happen, the schedulers just haven't confirmed the date/time yet. Nobody 'pulled out.' "
The postponement - whatever the reason - was a bad omen for Obama, who was counting on the summit to start turning around his political fortunes. It appeared to signal that Republicans are less anxious than the White House to launch a new era of bipartisanship, and it was a stark example of Obama's diminished ability to get members of Congress to bend to his will.
Obama has said he is open to a compromise that would temporarily extend all the cuts, even on income of more than $250,000 a year. But congressional Democrats dealing with the loss of the House, the narrowing of their margin in the Senate and a host of other tumultuous changes in the wake of midterm elections have yet to focus on what shape a compromise might take.
The GOP is dealing with internal frictions in its ranks as conservatives assert themselves more aggressively.
"It's just a packed week," Stewart said.
If the meeting does take place after Thanksgiving, it will be at a busy time. Congress is expected to do most of its serious work on taxes and other pressing lame-duck issues, such as a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia, in the final weeks before Christmas.
Senate Democrats met for more than two hours Tuesday without discussing plans for extending the tax cuts, and leaders in the House and Senate say neither body is likely to turn to the issue this week.
Unless Congress acts, virtually every taxpayer could see a sharp bite in his or her paycheck in January.
Staff writer Shailagh Murray contributed to this report.