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The four top leaders in Congress all expressed confidence that they could avert the fiscal cliff after Speaker John A. Boehner offered up revenue and Democrats agreed to pursue spending cuts during an hourlong meeting Friday at the White House.
The Ohio Republican told reporters that he proposed a framework for dealing with the cliff that would tie revenue to spending cuts “consistent with the president’s call for a balanced approach.”
“I believe that we can do this and avert this fiscal cliff,” Boehner told reporters outside the White House. He was flanked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
All of the leaders made similar comments.
“We’re prepared to put revenue on the table as long as we solve the real problem,” McConnell said, pointing to growing entitlement spending.
“I feel confident that a solution may be in sight,” Pelosi said. She added that they hope to reach a deal before Christmas and suggested during the meeting that they lay out benchmarks for the size of the deal and deadlines before then to build public confidence that the cliff would be averted.
According to a Boehner aide, the speaker suggested that the leaders agree on long-term revenue targets for tax reform and spending targets for entitlement reform as well as enforcement mechanisms that would kick in if Congress fails to act on either next year.
“They would be in place unless or until more thoughtful policies replace them,” the aide said.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also issued a statement calling the meeting “constructive.”
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.
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.
President Barack Obama at the start of the meeting called on the group to come together to avert the cliff.