White House Stays Optimistic that 'Fiscal Cliff' Can be Avoided

Obama spoke to congressional leaders over the weekend to keep deficit deal talks alive.

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President Barack Obama gestures as he answers a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012.

President Barack Obama remains optimistic his administration and congressional leaders can come together to make a deal that would avoid the harsh tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect at the beginning of the new year.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama spoke to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, over the weekend to discuss the on-going deal-making.

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"We remain confident that we can achieve an agreement," Carney said during his daily briefing with reporters.

The White House published a report on Monday outlining the potential economic damage not reaching an agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff would have in hopes of bolstering support for a deal.

Reacting to comments made by top Republican senators over the weekend that they would be open to increasing tax revenue as part of a 'grand bargain' that would also curb entitlement spending, Carney said he hoped it marks "a difference in tone and approach to these problems."

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In the past, Republicans have refused to consider raising taxes at all as part of a deal.

"[Obama] believes and understands that in order to achieve a deal, a compromise, then everyone has to make tough choices," Carney said when asked if the president was willing to make changes to Medicare and Medicaid in the name of deficit reduction. But Carney also reiterated that Obama would veto any bill that continues the Bush era income tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 a year.

"A balanced approach is the right approach," he said. Carney said the president's deficit reduction goal is $4 trillion in savings during the next 10 years.

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Though Carney did not announce any specific travel plans for Obama, many are speculating he will make his case for higher taxes for the wealthy directly to the public in the coming weeks.

"Public communication is essential and we are always looking for ways to engage the public in a debate like this," Carney said, adding that the importance of engaging the public in "chewy policy debates" was a lesson the administration has learned over the last four years.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at rmetzler@usnews.com.