WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the Obama administration remains "confident" that a deal can be reached to avert the "fiscal cliff" by years end.
"I think we remain confident that we can achieve an agreement," Carney said about the trillions in tax and spending decisions that need to be decided in the next five weeks, adding, "Work has to be done."
President Barack Obama spoke with Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to Carney, but there are still no meetings between the president and congressional leaders on the books.
Carney said this month's election established the frame for discussion, with an extension of the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year off the table.
“We know what the solutions are," Carney said. “We know what the parameters of a balanced solutions to these problems looks like.”
Meanwhile, Carney indicated the White House may break with some congressional Democrats, who don't want to bring entitlement programs into the discussion. "We need to look at Medicare and Medicaid," Carney said, echoing previous statements by Obama.
But Carney said Social Security should not be roped in because it does not contribute to the deficit at the moment. He added that Obama would be open to looking at solutions to strengthen Social Security going forward, but not as part of these ongoing talks.
Carney did not indicate whether Obama would be open to raising the eligibility age for Medicare — an option many Democrats are vowing to oppose.