Signals from the first post-election budget meeting between the President and congressional leaders, which took place at the White House on Friday, were very good.
Congressional leaders of both parties appeared together after the meeting. There were no lines in the sand, no threats, and no impugning each other’s motives.
Beyond the low bar of politeness, President Obama and his guests appeared to be focused on the right priority -- achieving a long-term fiscal plan and not just a quick fix to the immediate pressure of the “fiscal cliff.”
They spoke of a two-step process with a down payment on deficit reduction this year while putting together a framework for a long-term deal to be enacted next year along with a credible back-up mechanism -- more credible than a new cliff -- in case Congress fails to act. That basic approach has been recommended by many outside observers, including The Concord Coalition.
Topping off the pre-Thanksgiving cheer was that a consensus seems to have been reached on the fundamental point that everything must be on the table, including revenues and entitlement spending.
We're still far from a long-term “grand bargain,” let alone a way around the fiscal cliff, but this is an essential starting point for fruitful negotiations.