Debt-cutting deal can be reached before Christmas - Obama


Mr. Obama, joined by about a dozen middle-class Americans at a White House event, pushed ahead with his campaign to increase revenue by hiking taxes on wealthier Americans.

"I am ready and able and willing and excited to go ahead and get this issue resolved in bipartisan fashion so that American families, American businesses have some certainty going into next year," the president said.

If Congress doesn't reach a deal by the end of the year, $650 billion in spending cuts and tax increases will automatically go into effect on Jan. 1.

According to an administration official, two of the president's top negotiators on the fiscal cliff will meet separately with leading lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. The sessions are seen as an important step in determining how a deal will be reached.

Mr. Obama took special note of reports that some Republicans have expressed a willingness to extend the current expiring tax rates for households earning less than $250,000. Conservative Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole told GOP colleagues in a private meeting on Tuesday that it's better to extend tax cuts for 98 percent of taxpayers than engage in a prolonged fight that risks increasing taxes on everyone. Cole is a longtime GOP loyalist and a confidant of Boehner.

"I'm glad to see, if you've been reading the papers lately, that more and more Republicans in Congress seem to be agreeing with this idea that we should have a balanced approach," Mr. Obama said, noting that the Senate has already passed legislation to extend current rates to those middle class taxpayers.

"The Democrats in the House are ready to vote for that same bill today," he said. "If we can get a few House Republicans to agree as well, I'll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way. I've got to repeat: I've got a pen. I'm ready to sign it."

The president is urging the public to pressure Congress through social media, pointing to #My2K on Twitter - a reference to the estimated $2,200 tax increase a typical middle-class family of four would see if the Bush tax cuts expire.

Mr. Obama will meet with corporate executives at the White House on Wednesday and then travel to Pennsylvania on Friday to push for upper income bracket earners to pay higher tax rates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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