(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)Following talks with congressional leaders that yielded no news of a "fiscal cliff" agreement, President Barack Obama on Friday evening pressured lawmakers to reach a deal this weekend as the public's patience wears thin.
"America wonders why it is that in this town for some reason they can't get stuff done in an organized timetable, why everything always has to wait for the last minute," Obama said during a statement delivered in the White House briefing room. "The American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy, not right now."
The president confirmed that following his Friday afternoon meeting with congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been tasked to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit and avoid the "fiscal cliff"—automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect Jan. 1.
But in the absence of a deal, Obama said he will "urge" Reid to "bring to the floor a basic package for an up-or-down vote" that would increase taxes on households earning more than $250,000, extend unemployment insurance and disarm a sequestration—provisions the president has supported.
But Republicans have been rejecting any tax increases, even for the wealthiest earners.
"If members of the House or Senate want to vote 'no,' they can," Obama said of his plan. "But we should let everybody vote. That's the way this is supposed to work."
The president referred to Friday's meeting, which also included House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, as "good and constructive" and said he remained "modestly optimistic" about Congress' ability to reach a deal.
But he blamed Congress for the 11th-hour holdup.
"The economy is growing, but sustaining that trend is going to require elected officials to do their jobs," Obama said.
No details on the proposals offered Friday were released by the White House or the lawmakers present.
According to a readout from the speaker's office, Boehner began the meeting by reminding those gathered "that the House has already acted to avert the entire fiscal cliff and is awaiting Senate action." Plan options were discussed and the speaker said the House will consider Senate-amended, House-passed legislation.
Following the meeting, McConnell said on the Senate floor that he was "hopeful and optimistic" about a deal.
"We had a good meeting down at the White House. We are engaged in discussions—the majority leader and myself and the White House—in the hopes that we can come forward as early as Sunday and have a recommendation that I can make to my conference and the majority leader can make to his conference," McConnell said. "And so we’ll be working hard to try to see if we can get there in the next 24 hours."