“My understanding is tomorrow is Speaker Boehner’s birthday,” the president said at a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House earlier in the day. “So for those of you who want to wish him happy birthday, we will — we're not going to embarrass him with a cake, because we didn’t know how many candles were needed.”
“Yeah, right,” Boehner replied, giving Obama a friendly nudge.
Boehner turns 63 on Saturday.
The two men were meeting, along with other congressional and financial leaders, to begin negotiations to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, the expiration of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and cuts to mandatory spending.
The 1997 vintage might also be a reference to the year of the last big bipartisan budget deal between former President Bill Clinton and Congress. That compromise — the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 — has been a touchstone for negotiators on both sides as leaders discuss how to balance Republican demands to cut taxes and Democrats' push to raise revenue.
Updated at 3:18 p.m.