In an effort to reach a last-minute budget agreement, President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a meeting with Congressional leaders Friday afternoon.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are all due to meet at the White House along with Vice President Joe Biden.
The Oval Office meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 3 pm ET, comes as there are less than four days left for lawmakers to reach an agreement to avoid the looming fiscal cliff.
Unless an agreement is reached, approximately $600 billion in automatic tax increases and government spending cuts are due to go into effect at the end of the year.
With time running short, the meeting at the White House may focus on narrower measures to avert the full brunt of the fiscal cliff, giving lawmakers time to work on a broader agreement in the next session of Congress.
Bloomberg News recently reported that President Obama intends to offer a "scaled-back budget offer" at the meeting.
The meeting comes a day after Reid expressed pessimism about the ability to strike a deal in the time remaining, saying it "looks like" the country is headed over the fiscal cliff in a speech on the Senate floor.
Reid sought to blame Boehner for the predicament and once again urged the Republican leader to allow the House to vote on a Senate-approved bill extending the tax cuts on income up to $250,000 a year.
Meanwhile, generating some optimism about a potential deal, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virg., announced Thursday that the House of Representatives will reconvene Sunday evening.
Cantor informed the Republican members of the House of the plan in a conference call and later confirmed the news on Twitter, saying the first votes are expected at 6:30 p.m.
Republican leaders have previously said that the Senate must act first, arguing that the House has acted on two bills that collectively would avert entire fiscal cliff.
"If the Senate will not approve and send them to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House," Republican House leaders said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
They added, "Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments. The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act."
However, the statement noted that the lines of communication remain open, with the Republican leaders saying they will continue to work with their colleagues to avert the largest tax hike in American history.
by RTT Staff Writer
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