Fiscal Cliff Talks: President Obama to Meet with Congressional Leaders Friday

President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are to meet on Friday for the first time since November to reach an agreement on the so-called fiscal cliff.

The Senate’s top Republican revealed that the U.S. president has asked congressional leaders to start another round of negotiations on a deal that avoids automatic tax increases and broad spending cuts. Photo: The White House/Flickr

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the congressional leaders are scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama on Friday, just four days before the government goes over the so-called “fiscal cliff” if Congress and Obama don’t act.

The meeting would be the first time the president has huddled with all four leaders in last two weeks and it’s last hope for a deal before the new year.

As the date of rising taxes for all Americans is getting closer, lawmakers would be able to come back in January and take a more politically palatable vote to cut some of the tax rates.

According to Reuters, U.S. stocks fell on Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 0.48 percent and investors afraid of the lack of certainty.

However, there are those on the market who were resigned to Washington going beyond the Jan. 1 deadline, as long as a serious agreement on deficit reduction comes out of the talks in early January.

“Regardless of whether the government resolves the issues now, any deal can easily be retroactive. We’re not as concerned with January 1 as the market seems to be,” said Richard Weiss, a Mountain View, California-based senior money manager at American Century Investments.

Democrats in Congress want to keep lower tax rates for most Americans but raise them on those earning above $250,000 a year.

“The wealthy have got to kick in,” Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said Friday on CNN. “The tough part is in the House, where they have taken this very extreme position” of “protecting the wealthy at all costs,” she said.

“It’s feeling very much to me like an optical meeting than a substantive meeting,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, noting that it was not a sign of urgency to set a meeting for mid-afternoon with a deadline just days away.

“Any time you announce a meeting publicly in Washington, it’s usually for political theater purposes,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on Thursday on Fox News.

“When the president calls congressional leaders to the White House, it’s all political theater or they’ve got a deal. My bet is all political theater,” said Graham, adding that he did not believe an agreement could be reached before the deadline.

The highly expected meeting comes soon after the White House called on Republicans not to block a deal.

“It’s up to the Senate Minority Leader not to block a vote, and it’s up the House Republican leader, the Speaker of the House … to allow a vote,” a senior administration official told reporters traveling with the president.

A few days ago President Obama ended his Hawaiian vacation and left for Washington aiming to make a bid to reach a fiscal-cliff deal before the year ends.

Meanwhile, Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in the company’s Washington-area coffee shops to write “come together” on customers’ cups on Thursday and Friday to tell politicians to end the crisis.

“We’re paying attention, we’re greatly disappointed in what’s going on and we deserve better,” Schultz told reporters.

Boehner and his House Republican leadership team said in a statement that “the Senate must act first.”

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