WASHINGTON — Leaders of Congress declared confidence Friday they could reach a deal with President Barack Obama to avert economically convulsive tax increases and budget cuts at year's end, in a rare show of unity reflecting the dire stakes in a nation sick of political stalemate.
"I believe that we can do this," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after top lawmakers met with Obama at the White House.
Significantly, the same tone emerged from every corner of divided government— Obama spokesman Jay Carney, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
And while all sides sought to assure weary American consumers, edgy investors and wary employers that the nation would not plunge over the "fiscal cliff" come Jan. 1, they furnished precious few details on how they planned to proceed.
"We understand our responsibility," said Pelosi, D-Calif. "I feel confident that a solution may be in sight."
That solution exists only in the broadest sense, with Republicans conceding that any bargain to cut the debt must include tax revenue, and Democrats acknowledging there must be spending cuts to a host of major programs relied upon by millions of Americans.
Any solution likely would come in two phases, with steps now to avert a crisis and promises of a broader tax reform process in 2013.
None of the lawmakers made any mention of a big sticking point — Obama's insistence that tax rates go up, as scheduled, at the start of the year for individuals making over $200,000 a year and families earning over $250,000. Republicans flatly oppose that proposal.
At issue are a broad series of looming tax increases across every income bracket, coupled with across-the-board spending cuts. The gritty work of negotiations is now under way, and the White House work on this matter will be carried on by staff members as Obama heads off to Asia on Saturday.