Saying that he is “modestly optimistic,” President Obama emerged this evening to call the afternoon meeting at the White House between himself and Congressional leaders “constructive.” Obama said that Senate leaders Reid and McConnell will try reaching a deal on the cliff, and if they cannot, he wants an up or down vote in the House and the Senate on a slimmed down deal that preserves current tax rates on the middle class. The Republican House tried moving just such a deal last week, but failed on the fact that tax rates would still go up on top earners and small business owners.

Under Harry Reid’s leadership, the Democrat-controlled Senate has consistently avoided up-or-down votes on the budgets that the Republican-controlled House has passed. The president called the current impasse “deja vu all over again,” but if the Democrats actually allow a vote on anything meaningful, that would be a sort of progress.

President Obama, who was once an adjunct professor of constitutional law, should note that according to the Constitution, spending bills are supposed to originate in the House, not whatever chamber his party happens to control.

Update: NBC has announced that President Obama will appear on Meet the Press this Sunday.