Obama Invites Congressional Leaders for Fiscal Cliff 'Consensus' Talks
President Obama has invited congressional leaders from both parties to the White House when the House and Senate return next week "so we can start to build consensus around the challenges that we can only solve together."
"And I also intend to bring in business and labor and civic leaders from all across the country here to Washington to get their ideas and input as well," Obama said in afternoon remarks flanked by a friendly crowd in the East Room.
Though Obama talked about sweeping plans from education and job training to clean energy and infrastructure, the leaders will need to address the looming fiscal cliff of tax hikes and massive sequestration cuts.
"Last year, I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut a trillion dollars’ worth of spending that we just couldn’t afford. I intend to work with both parties to do more -- and that includes making reforms that will bring down the cost of health care so we can strengthen programs like Medicaid and Medicare for the long haul," he said.
But the president isn't abandoning his quest to raise taxes on the upper income brackets. And Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said tax hikes are a no-go.
"As I’ve said before, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity," Obama said. "If we’re serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue -- and that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes. That’s how we did it in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president."
The vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee said the negotiations should focus on "growing the pie instead of on how we divide it."
“As we address the looming fiscal cliff, we must avoid any action that would hamper economic growth. Instead, we must accelerate growth," said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas).
"This 'slow and low flying' recovery remains the weakest on record since World War II. Real GDP is $1.2 trillion lower than it would be if this recovery had just been average," he continued. "Strong private sector growth would generate the tax revenues under current rates to reduce our budget deficit substantially."
“I fundamentally reject the idea that the only way to avoid the fiscal cliff is to raise taxes and jeopardize job creation. Without a bold plan to bring spending under control and get our economy growing, we will be right back at the edge of this cliff in just a matter of years. I am not interested in short-term political deals. We need a long-term solution," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“The bottom line is that we can’t tax, or even cut, our way out of this. The only way to solve this is through economic growth," Rubio added. “...Nothing that I’ve seen during the past two years has invalidated the free enterprise miracle I have seen throughout my life."