By Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama summoned congressional leaders to a Friday summit at the White House in a last-ditch effort to protect taxpayers, unemployed workers and the fragile U.S. recovery from severe austerity measures set to hit in just four days.
Also Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced that he would call the House back into session this weekend. And in perhaps the most significant development, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the first time was engaged directly in talks with the White House. He signaled an interest in cutting a deal.
“The truth is, we’re coming up against a hard deadline here . . . and Republicans aren’t about to write a blank check for anything Senate Democrats put forward just because we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff,” McConnell said in a speech Thursday afternoon on the Senate floor.
“We’ll see what the president has to propose,” McConnell said. “Hopefully, there is still time for an agreement of some kind that saves the taxpayers from a wholly preventable economic crisis.”
This marks just the fifth time since the 1930s that members of Congress have been dragged back from their holiday break to a post-Christmas session in Washington.
With uncertainty about a solution producing volatility in the equity markets, aides in both parties expressed hope that legislation could be enacted before the New Year’s Eve deadline. They cautioned, however, that quick action would require leaders in both chambers to rally firmly around a specific set of proposals.
One option that could potentially win broad support, aides said, was allowing taxes to rise on household income over $400,000 a year — Obama’s latest offer in negotiations with Boehner — rather than the lower threshold of $250,000 a year, as Obama proposed during the presidential campaign. Publicly, there was little sign of such a thaw Thursday.