President Obama announced today that he was still optimistic that a scaled-down deal could be reached with lawmakers to avoid the fiscal cliff -- $500 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that would kick in Dec. 31.
"I still want to get this done," Obama said in a White House press briefing. "The hour for immediate action is here. It is now. In just four days, every American's tax rate is scheduled to go up by law...everyone's pay check will get smaller...Congress can prevent it if they act now."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are discussing a potential agreement, the president said. If no compromise is reached in a timely fashion, Obama said both chambers should put his own plan to an up-or-down vote. Last week he outlined that proposal, which would extend tax cuts for those with annual incomes of up to $250,000 and unemployment benefits for two million unemployed workers.
Either of these deals would be scaled back from the so-called "grand bargain" that has been previously discussed. However, they would lay the groundwork for discussions on taxes and spending in the new year.