Leaders Agree To Push Big Questions Past “Cliff”

Putting off the trickiest decisions until after the fiscal cliff. For now, everything is on the table.

Olivier Douliery-Pool / Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC — In their meeting at the White House on Friday, congressional leaders and President Barack Obama agreed that major reforms to the tax code and entitlement programs will not be part of legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.

Instead, House Speaker John Boehner said a solution to the fiscal cliff should ensure that those larger issues be addressed in 2013, when lawmakers will have more time to craft long-term fixes.

“This is a construct all present agreed was needed,” an aide to Boehner wrote in an e-mail.

As the fiscal cliff negotiations move forward, perhaps no one will play such a key role in fostering compromise as Boehner, making his thinking at this early stage of particular significance.

At the meeting, Boehner “said Republicans recognize neither side is going to get everything it wants, and noted Republicans have put revenue on the table to demonstrate their seriousness about finding common ground,” the aide said.

The meeting brought together Boehner, Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The lawmakers agreed that proposed frameworks for a fiscal-cliff solution would be presented immediately after Thanksgiving.

Those frameworks will likely outline target ratios of spending cuts to revenue, which would enable party leaders to begin working out the specifics of their plans.

Already, Democrats and Republicans have sparred over the issue of revenue, with Democrats contending that tax cuts for the wealthy must be allowed to expire, while Republicans have said that sufficient revenue can be attained by closing tax loopholes and making reforms to entitlement programs, including Medicare.

But, for now, leaders of both parties have agreed to put everything on the negotiating table.

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