WASHINGTON, DC — Congressional leaders expressed optimism after their first meeting with President Barack Obama on averting the fiscal cliff.
“We have the cornerstones of being able to figure something out,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters at the White House after the meeting, which each lawmaker called “constructive.”
In a positive change from the contentious debt-ceiling negotiations 15 months ago, all four leaders addressed reporters together, taking turns by party at the microphones.
“While we’re going to continue to have revenue on the table, it is going to be incumbent for my colleagues to show the American people that we’re serious about cutting spending and solving our fiscal dilemma,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said.
“We had a recognition that every person in America knows that we must reach agreement,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, adding that a deal must be reached by Christmas to avoid an erosion of consumer confidence, and warning that if no deal is reached, there will be an “economic downturn.”
Boehner said specifically that he was open to a deal involving tax reform and did not mention tax hikes on the wealthy, which he and his party have a stated opposition against, and Obama has promised to achieve.
And in a sign of a potential sticking point for Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his focus was on reforming entitlement programs, which many House Democrats have said they are dead-set against.
“You can’t save the country until you have entitlement programs that fit the demographics of the changing America in the coming years,” McConnell said. We are prepared to put revenue on the table, provided we fix the real problem.”
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama is committed to a deal that includes “both revenues and cuts in spending and encourages our long-term economic and job growth.”
“Both sides agreed that while there may be differences in our preferred approaches, we will continue a constructive process to find a solution and come to a conclusion as soon as possible,” he said.
Reid said the leaders and their staffs would work together next week and resume formal negotiations the week after Thanksgiving.