Three days remain for Congress to pass a federal budget agreement that would avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" and today President Obama said he believes the House and Senate leadership can squeak out a deal in time.
In his weekly address, released this morning, the president said allowing the package of perilous tax increases and budget cuts set to take effect in the New Year "would be the wrong thing to do for our economy."
"Congress can prevent it from happening if they act now," he said. "Leaders in Congress are working on a way to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I believe we may be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time."
The president was referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who were attempting to quickly fashion a deal that can pass both chambers of Congress. Although not mentioned specifically in the video, the two leaders and their House counterparts, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., met with the president and his staff at the White House Friday that left both parties' leadership cautiously optimistic in public statements following the meeting.
Largely repeating remarks he made following the meeting, the president noted that should the last-minute wrangling fail he has asked Reid to deliver a basic proposal to the Senate floor for a simple up-or-down vote.
"We believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities -as long as these leaders allow it to come to a vote. If they still want to vote no and let this tax hike hit the middle class, that's their prerogative - but they should let everyone vote. That's the way this is supposed to work," he said. "We just can't afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy."
Reid's backup legislation would reflect the Democrats' side in this quagmire, demanding a tax boost for household incomes greater than $250,000 and an extension of unemployment benefits for roughly 2 million Americans that is set to expire without their reauthorization.
"You meet your deadlines and your responsibilities every day," Obama said. "The folks you sent here to serve should do the same."
The president's statement came a day before what could be a critical turning point in the "cliff" ordeal. On Sunday, the House of Representatives returns from holiday recess, the same day McConnell and Reid could offer up a hypothetical deal for a vote. Meanwhile, NBC's "Meet the Press" will air a televised interview with Obama that morning.