(Adds quotes and details)
WASHINGTON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama expressed confidence on Wednesday that Democrats and Republicans would be able to break a political deadlock and reach a deal on soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts.
Obama spoke after his top economic advisers and key congressional leaders held their first round of negotiations in an effort to reach a compromise on taxes before the end of the legislative session later this month.
“Nobody wants to see taxes on middle class families going up starting on Jan. 1,” Obama said after meeting former Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss a variety of issues.
Obama and the Republicans stuck to their divergent positions on Tuesday in their first meeting since the Nov. 2 congressional elections, when the opposition party scored big gains, but agreed to try to resolve their differences.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is leading negotiations for the White House along with budget director Jack Lew, said participants had a “civil, constructive discussion” on Wednesday but he would not say where the talks were heading.
The negotiations seek to bridge a divide between Democrats’ desire to extend lower tax rates on individual income up to $200,000 and Republican aims to extend lower rates for the wealthiest Americans.
Obama said it was important for both sides to show that “given where the economy is at right now and given the struggles that a lot of families are going through right now that we’re going to be able to solve this problem.”
“I think we got off to a good start yesterday,” Obama said. “There are going to be ups and downs in this process but I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get it done.” (Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Caren Bohan, reporting by Ross Colvin; Editing by Philip Barbara)