Obama, congressional leaders show unity in pledge to avert ‘fiscal cliff’

Lori Montgomery / The Washington Post /

WASHINGTON — After a brutally divisive presidential campaign and two years of acrimony over the federal budget, the nation’s leaders joined hands Friday and pledged fast and far-reaching action to tame the public debt and avoid economy-shaking tax hikes set to hit in January.

In a display of bipartisanship unseen since the GOP captured the House in 2010, Republican and Democratic leaders met for more than an hour with President Barack Obama at the White House. They emerged unified, with a message of reassurance for nervous taxpayers and investors — though intense haggling over the shape of a deal is yet to come.

“I feel very good about what we were able to talk about in there,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters outside the White House, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Republicans John Boehner of Ohio, the House speaker, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, as well as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. “We all know something has to be done. There is no more ‘Let’s do it some other time.’ We’re going to do it now.”

The usually sharp-tongued McConnell even praised Obama for his upcoming trip to Southeast Asia, although it will take the president away from Washington as policymakers rush to reach an agreement to avert $500 billion in tax hikes and automatic spending cuts that threaten to throw the nation back into recession early next year.

“I can only echo the observations of the other leaders, that it was a constructive meeting,” McConnell said. “We all understand where we are.”

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