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Fiscal Cliff Talks Kick Off on Optimistic Note

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
Boehner, Obama and Reid attended a meeting with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Friday.

“They would be in place unless or until more thoughtful policies replace them,” the aide said.

That effectively would set up a new pair of fiscal cliffs sometime next year.

The details, such as who would be tasked with finding cuts and revenues and how they would move through Congress, and the makeup of the enforcement mechanisms, remain to be worked out.

Though he did not reference the Boehner framework, Reid seemed leery of pushing many decisions into next year.

“We have a cornerstone of being able to work something out,” Reid said. “And so it is like when we arrive at a point where we all know something has to be done, there is no more ‘Let’s do it some other time.’ We’re going to do it now.”

However, “constructive” was certainly the watchword of the day and was used by most of the leaders as well as by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who issued a statement saying the leaders “agreed to do everything possible to find a solution” and find a “balanced approach” including revenue and cuts while encouraging 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,” Carney said.

Talks will continue among staff and lawmakers over the Thanksgiving break. Leaders are expected to reconvene the following week and hope to have made concrete progress to build confidence among consumers ahead of the holidays and in the markets, which have grown increasingly jittery since the elections at the prospect of an impasse.

After returning to the Capitol, Reid said he planned to have more talks with key players in coming days.

“It was a good meeting. There was no harsh words. There was a general feeling that we need to get something done, and both sides are going to have to give,” Reid said.

Obama at the start of the meeting called on the group to come together.

“I want to welcome the congressional leadership here and thank them for their time,” he said at the top of the meeting in the Roosevelt Room. “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, find some common ground, make some tough compromises build some consensus to do the people’s business.”

Obama also wished Boehner — who turns 63 on Saturday — a happy birthday.

“We’re not going to embarrass him with a cake because we didn’t know how many candles were needed,” the president quipped.

“Yeah, right,” Boehner said with a smile. The two men, seated next to each other, then shook hands.

Obama did not sing happy birthday, nor the semifamous “Boehner Birthday song,” which can be found on YouTube. But he did present the speaker with a pricey bottle of Italian wine.

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