White House tamps down talk of deal on ‘fiscal cliff’ ahead of meeting

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

With the White House and top lawmakers publicly remaining tight-lipped about any deals in the works to avoid the "fiscal cliff," speculation ran rampant in Washington Friday regarding details of a possible deal.

Media outlets and social media sites highlighted reports from Republican sources on the Hill suggesting that lawmakers expect President Barack Obama to offer a "scaled-down" fiscal cliff proposal at his 3 p.m. White House meeting with lawmakers. The proposal would reportedly extend tax cuts for Americans making up to $400,000 annually as part of a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff—automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect Jan. 1—and include an expansion of the alternative minimum tax and an extension of select expired tax cuts.

The White House reiterated on Friday prior to the president's 3 p.m. meeting that no new deal had been formally offered and suggested that new reports of a "scaled-back" compromise are based simply on speculation.

At issue are Bush-era income tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year. Republicans want them extended for everyone, while Obama wants them extended only for middle-income families and hiked on higher incomes. The president campaigned for re-election saying taxes should go up on family incomes over $250,000 in order to cut the deficit and pay for popular government programs like Medicare, the health care plan for seniors.

Washington, like the rest of America, will apparently just have to wait and see.

The president and Vice President Joe Biden are scheduled to meet Friday with leaders from both sides of Capitol Hill—Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—to discuss ways to resolve the impasse.