The fiscal cliff talks: Are Republicans and Democrats close to a deal?

Lawmakers strike an optimistic note after meeting with Obama, raising hopes that Congress will spare the economy an unwelcome jolt on Jan. 1

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Boehner and Mitch McConnel
(Image credit: Roger Wollenberg/Getty Images)

The video: After an hour-long meeting with President Obama on Friday, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders said they were confident they could reach a budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, a potentially devastating collection of huge spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect at the end of the year. (Watch a video of their press conference below.) Both sides put on a "rare show of bipartisan bonhomie," says Jackie Calmes at The New York Times, raising hopes that the they can overcome the intense polarization of the past few years and actually get a deal done. "We understand our responsibility," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif). "I feel confident that a solution may be in sight." Obama has insisted that families making more than $250,000 a year pay more in taxes as part of any bargain, and Republicans flatly oppose that proposal. However, both sides said they recognized they had to compromise. "To show our seriousness, we've put revenue on the table," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "as long as it's accompanied by significant spending cuts."

The reaction: The "conciliatory tone" adopted by Republican and Democratic leaders makes it sound like there's a deal in the offing, says Reid J. Epstein at Politico. "But the debate remains over the details," and Boehner didn't say a word to indicate he'd be willing to raise tax rates on the rich. Let's face it though, says Jeffrey H. Anderson at The Weekly Standard. The Republicans have no choice but to fold and strike the best bargain they can. "Everybody can see that the GOP has a weak hand." If there's no deal, "taxes will be hiked about $4 for every $1 in spending cuts," mostly from the defense budget. "For Obama, this juicy combination of tax hikes, defense cuts, and blaming it all on an ostensibly recalcitrant GOP, would be like hitting the jackpot." Forget the tax hikes: The real danger is that Obama could bend to Republican demands on cutting entitlements, such as Medicare and Medicaid, says Taylor Marsh at her blog. Going over the cliff would be a disaster, but for needy Americans, "there will also be consequences to the choices made to keep from going over the edge."

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