WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top Republicans emerged from a meeting at the White House on Friday saying they are prepared to agree to additional revenue in order to avert looming harsh tax hikes and spending cuts, as long as there also are reductions in spending.
“To show our seriousness, we’ve put revenue on the table as long as it’s accompanied by significant spending cuts,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters at the White House.
Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the Senate, also offered conditional backing for new revenue, but said reforms to social safety net programs also are necessary.
“We fully understand that you can’t save the country until you have entitlement programs that fit the demographics of changing America in the coming years,” the Senate minority leader said. “We’re prepared to put revenue on the table provided we fix the real problems.”
Lawmakers sought to establish a conciliatory tone in their first round of talks on the so-called fiscal cliff after Obama was re-elected to a second four-year term. Boehner, McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid all described the initial discussions as “constructive.”
Financial markets and others are nervous that lawmakers may fail to reach a deal, which would put a sharp brake on the U.S. economy, and the lawmakers sought to reassure the public of progress. Reid said they would work through the Thanksgiving holiday to craft an agreement, which Pelosi said she hopes comes before Christmas.
“I was focusing on how we send a message of confidence to consumers, to the markets, in the short run too,” she said of their meeting with the president.
Boehner said he had outlined a deal that includes tax code reforms and spending cuts.
“The framework I’ve outlined in our meeting today is consistent with the president’s call for a fair and balanced approach,” he said.
Lawmakers will meet with the president again after Thanksgiving, Reid said. (Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott)