President Obama appeared cranky but determined during a televised statement on the status of fiscal cliff negotiations Friday evening. The appearance followed an hour-long meeting at the White House with the Big Four — John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell — which produced no immediate breakthroughs. Nevertheless, Obama said he was "moderately optimistic" that an agreement that could pass both chambers of Congress could be reached before the economy hurtles over the fiscal cliff.
Despite his moderate optimism, Obama made sure to reiterate multiple times that normal, rational people have had it up to here with the shenanigans of Congress. "America wonders why it is that in this town, for some reason, you can't get stuff done in an organized timetable," he mused. "Outside of Washington, nobody understands how this seems to be a repeat pattern over and over again," he said later. In case his frustration wasn't clear, Obama, at one point in the middle of his remarks, stopped to inform some Chatty Cathies in the room, "Guys, I can hear you over here."
In addition to sympathizing with America's frustrated soccer moms and Joe Six-Packs, Obama's efforts to once again position himself as the Only Reasonable Man in Washington included a call for Harry Reid to hold a simple up or down vote on a slimmed-down package (an extension of tax cuts for the middle class and federal unemployment benefits) if a deal can't be reached — essentially daring Republicans in the Senate and House to turn it down. Some of the things this scaled-back bill would not do:
It would not stop automatic spending cuts from hitting military and domestic programs beginning on Wednesday, nor would it raise the statutory borrowing limit, which will be reached on Monday. Congressional aides said those issues would be dealt with early next year in yet another showdown.
Another showdown? Our cup truly runneth over.