WASHINGTON (CBS) - With 33 days left to the fiscal cliff deadline, President Obama sends his treasury secretary to Capitol Hill today to negotiate with Congressional leaders.
For the second time since winning re-election, President Obama welcomed the applause of hand-picked supporters and warned Republicans not to ignore his calls to protect middle income households from higher taxes. President Obama says, "It's too important for Washington to screw this up. Now's the time for us to work on what we all agree to, which is let's keep middle class taxes low."
To achieve that, President Obama must persuade Republicans to allow tax cuts for households that earn more than $250,000 to expire. That means indirect GOP complicity in a tax rate increase. And they're not interested. Sen. John Boehner says, "You're not going to grow the economy if you raise tax rates on the top two rates. It will hurt small businesses, it will hurt our economy it's why this is not the right approach."
This impasse is just one of the many hurdles Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Obama's lead negotiator, will confront in meetings today with top Congressional leaders.
Erskine Bowles, head of Obama's Deficit Reduction Commission, met this week with all the players at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Bowles says, "I'm not more optimistic, or less optimistic. I'm hopeful but I wouldn't be, put me down anywhere near optimistic category. We got a long way to go and very few days to get it done."
Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have offered to break a no-new-tax increase pledge and raise revenue as part of a budget deal. But Graham's pulling back until the president offers specifics on entitlement cuts. Graham says, "I have not seen one plan from this White House that would deal with Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, which are all going to fail and take the country down the road of Greece. And until I hear something from the White House, I'm not going to say another word about revenue."