Congressional leaders left the White House Friday afternoon after a last-ditch meeting with the president to try and avoid the pile of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that loom for all Americans in 2013.
"The American people are watching what we do here. Obviously their patience is already thin," the president said after the meeting.
Tensions are growing here in Western Mass. City budgets across the area were already lean in 2012, forcing some cities like Springfield to cut back. Those budgets would be even tighter in 2013.
If the fiscal cliff isn't avoided, Gov. Deval Patrick says he would be forced to close a projected $540 million budget gap, and is ordering spending cuts. In the process, cities like Chicopee would lose around $100,000 in local aid.
"The hour for immediate action is here," the president said.
And if the nation goes over the fiscal cliff, the nation faces $55 billion in automatic defense spending cuts, affecting Chicopee-based Westover Air Reserve Base.
It's a $250 million a year economic engine that city officials say they can't afford to see weaken.
But the president says that with so much on the table he is optimistic as the clock continues to tick.
"We had a constructive meeting today, Sens. Reid and McConell are discussing a potential agreement where we can get a bipartisan bill out of the Senate and over to the House and done in a timely fashion so that we've met the December 31 deadline," the president said.
The House is back in session Sunday. That gives lawmakers only about 24 hours to approve a deal if one is made in the Senate.
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