White House Meeting

It’s showtime at the White House today, as President Obama sits down with leaders of both parties to discuss the Bush tax cuts and more on the agenda of the Lame Duck Congress.

While Democratic leaders in the Congress have been refusing to talk about any deal-making with the GOP on the expiring income tax rates, the President was clearly trying to portray himself as one who wants to find common ground.

“Everybody is going to have to cooperate,” Mr. Obama told reporters as he announced a plan for a two year freeze on the pay of most federal workers.  

“We can’t afford to fall back onto the same old ideologies or the same stale sound bites.”

But as of now, the “same stale sound bites” may be the result, especially if one party wants to play a little Legislative Chicken on this issue.

While Republicans are demanding that all the current tax rates be made permanent, Democrats are still talking about ways to force the GOP into a corner on the issue.

A number of Democrats say they like an idea that would raise taxes on those who make more than $1 million a year, arguing that would put the GOP in a corner, and make it clear they are “defending the very rich.”

The GOP argument is simple right now – that any tax increase would hurt economic growth.

Which brings me back to Mr. Obama.  I was really struck by both his tone and that of his spokesman Robert Gibbs on Monday.

I got the sense that they are trying to position the Obama White House as the ‘sensible middle’ of this argument, in a post-election bid to again reclaim Mr. Obama’s pledge from 2008 to rise above regular partisan politics in Washington, D.C.

“We’re going to have to budge on some deeply held positions and compromise for the good of the country,” the President said.

“We’re going to have to set aside the politics of the moment to make progress for the long term,” in what sounded like a jab at Republicans and their call to make all the tax rates permanent.

So where is this debate going?  Well, today is November 30.  The Bush tax cuts expire in one month if the Congress hasn’t done anything.

There are now 19 work days until Christmas, and 24 until the New Year.