U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he'd review President Barack Obama's latest plan to avoid the "fiscal cliff" in a White House meeting Friday.
"We'll see what the president has to propose," the Kentucky Republican said ahead of a 3 p.m. Oval Office meeting with Obama and all four congressional leaders of both chambers.
"Hopefully, there is still time for an agreement of some kind that saves the taxpayers from a wholly preventable economic crisis," McConnell said ahead of his first direct engagement with the White House to avoid more than $500 billion in tax hikes for virtually all taxpayers and spending cuts in defense and domestic programs scheduled to take effect Tuesday.
"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 Senate floor speech Thursday afternoon.
Obama called McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to meet to try to broker a way forward in stalled negotiations to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts.
Economists have warned missing the year-end deadline and letting those increases and cuts go into effect could thrust the nation back into recession.
At Friday's meeting, Obama was expected to outline elements he thinks should be in a deal that could get majority support in both chambers of Congress, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
Obama was not expected to put forward a specific bill or legislative language, the person said.
At best, the leaders would seek to create a narrow bill that could be passed at the last minute, legislative officials said.
But Reid said the prospects of passing even a slimmed-down bill before Monday, the last day of the year, were fading fast.
"I have to be very honest. I don't know time-wise how it can happen now," he said.
Some officials floated the possibility of a retroactive bill passed after the cliff deadline passed. And most officials said they believed any deal would most likely emerge in the Senate.
Both parties told The Washington Post talks were quietly under way between aides to McConnell and senior White House officials ahead of Friday's Oval Office meeting.
At the same time, Reid criticized Boehner in unusually personal terms, accusing him of running the House as a "dictatorship" in which he would not bring forward legislation to avert the fiscal cliff because it might pass with broad Democratic support and only a handful of Republican votes.
Boehner had no immediate comment.
Reid also taunted Boehner and other House GOP leaders for still being in recess while the Senate returned from its Christmas holiday Thursday -- a criticism the Journal said stung some House Republicans, who complained to their leadership.
House GOP leaders later announced they would call members back into session Sunday, with a possible vote that evening.
The lawmakers were warned the House might be in session through Wednesday, the day the 112th Congress disbands, and then continue Thursday after the new Congress is sworn in.
That scenario would happen if the cliff deadline passes with no agreement and GOP leaders bring up legislation to reverse the tax increases and spending cuts retroactively, Republicans participating in the call told the Journal.
In that case, the retroactive bill would be voted on by the 113th Congress.
The new Congress will have more Democrats in both chambers than in the current Congress -- nine more Democrats in the House and two more in the Senate.
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OCTOBER 31, 2014
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