President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he hopes he and Congress can reach agreement to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff" and shrink the budget deficit before Christmas, and urged supporters to press lawmakers to agree to a deal.
"Our ultimate goal is an agreement that gets our long term deficit under control in a way that is fair and balanced. That kind of agreement would be good for our businesses, it would be good for our economy, it would be good for our children's future and I believe that both parties can agree on a framework that does that in the coming weeks. In fact, my hope is to get this done before Christmas," he said at the White House.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner voiced optimism that Republicans could broker a deal with the White House to avoid year-end austerity measures, saying on Wednesday that Republicans were willing to raise revenues if Democrats agreed to spending cuts.
Mandated $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will start going into effect early next year if the Obama administration and lawmakers cannot agree on how to change the law. Top policymakers say these austerity measures could topple the U.S. economy back into a recession.
Although the White House and top congressional leaders have started negotiating, Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on how to reduce the trillion-dollar-plus U.S. budget deficit and put the nation on a sound fiscal path.
"You're not going to grow the economy if you raise tax rates on the top two rates," Boehner said. "We're willing to put revenue on the table, as long as we're not raising rates."
Obama, who was re-elected this month after campaigning to make the wealthy pay their fair share, wants to raise taxes on the country's highest income earners.