After meeting President Obama at the White House, Senate leaders say they will work through the weekend and bring senators back into session on Sunday, in hopes of approving an agreement to protect taxpayers, the unemployed and the nation's economy from the worst effects of the fiscal cliff.
"I'm hopeful and optimistic," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“There’s no concrete proposal at this time,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters as he returned to the U.S. Capitol after the 65-minute meeting. “We have a number of different directions we’re going to try to take and we’re going to see what can be worked out,” Reid said.
“We’re out of time. We’ve got to do it now,” he said. “That’s why I said that the next 24 hours will be very important.”
He would not say what legislative option might emerge from Friday’s discussions, only saying that “we’re considering lots of different things.”
Reid appeared confident as he returned to the Capitol and took a rare opportunity to speak with an awaiting scrum of reporters. But he cautioned: ”I've had my confidence destroyed on other occasions, so I hope it’s not on this occasion.”
Obama, Reid, McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) all took part in the meeting. Obama laid no new offers on the table. Instead, he urged Republican leaders to support his plan to let taxes rise on income over $250,000 a year or to offer a clear alternative that could win Democratic support.
As expected, Boehner told the group that the House has already acted and would be awaiting Senate action. If the Senate amends a House-passed bill awaiting consideration, Boehner told the group that the House would reconsider the bill “either by accepting or amending” it, according to aides familiar with the meeting.
Those gathered around the table agreed that the next step should be for the Senate to take bipartisan action, the aides said.