All sides claim deal on fiscal cliff obtainable

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Congressional leaders emerged from a White House meeting with President Obama and Vice President Biden on Friday projecting optimism that they can strike a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff before the end of the year. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that congressional leaders and the White House have a plan to start negotiating and will work through next week’s Thanksgiving recess and meet with Obama again when the full Congress returns. 

“We have the cornerstones of being able to work something out. We’re both going to have to give up some of the things that we know are a problem,” Reid told reporters after the meeting. “There is no more ‘Let’s do it some other time.’ We’re going to do it now. We feel very comfortable with each other and this isn’t something we’re going to wait until the last day of December to get it done. We have a plan. We’re going to move forward on it.”

An aide to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that Boehner said the GOP’s goal for the coming weeks “is to settle on long-term revenue targets for tax reform as well as targets for savings from our entitlement programs.

“Once we settle on those targets, the speaker proposed, we can create simple mechanisms, in statute, that would achieve those revenue and spending goals,” the aide continued. “They would be in place unless or until more thoughtful policies replace them.” 

The aide said that the group agreed to immediately begin staff discussions on a framework that can be presented to the group after Thanksgiving. 

In their remarks to reporters, Reid, Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., didn’t outline the specifics; instead they simply reiterated positions they have been staking out since last week’s elections. Republicans offered to raise new revenue in exchange for cuts to entitlement spending while Democrats talked less about cuts and more about the negotiating process. The quartet did not take any questions or talk about specific proposals being floated.

“We had a very constructive meeting with the president to address America's fiscal problems,” Boehner said afterward. “I outlined a framework for reforming our tax code and reforming our expenses. What I outlined is consistent with the president's call for a fair and balanced approach.

“To show our seriousness, we put revenues on the table as long as it's accompanied by significant spending cuts,” the speaker added.

In keeping with his pre-meeting positioning, Reid didn’t mention entitlement cuts.

But Pelosi did mention cuts broadly, saying, “We understand that it has to be about cuts; it has to be about revenue; it has to be about growth; it has to be about the future.  So as we cut investments and as we talk about revenue, we have to do it in a way that promotes growth and supports the future.”

In remarks before the meeting, Obama said, “I think we're all aware that we have some urgent business to do. We've got to make sure that taxes don't go up on middle-class families—that our economy remains strong. That's an agenda that Democrats and Republicans and independents, people all across the country, share.

“So our challenge is to make sure that we are able to cooperate together, work together to find some common ground, make some tough compromises, build some consensus to do the people's business," the president added.

Julia Edwards, Billy House, and Sophie Quinton contributed to this article. 

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