WASHINGTON - Republicans and Democrats alike are voicing confidence that a deal could be struck to avoid tumbling over the so-called "fiscal cliff," though specifics on such a deal remained vague.
The two sides have until the end of the year to negotiate a budget-cutting deal to prevent middle class tax cuts from expiring and massive across-the-board budget cuts from taking effect. Democrats have largely favored raising taxes on wealthy Americans, while Republicans insist the solution comes in cutting federal spending.
On Sunday, GOP Sen. Bob Corker conceded that wealthy Americans should pay more in taxes, but that the increase should come by closing loopholes rather than raising tax rates. The Tennessee Republican said cuts to entitlement spending would also need to be on the table for Republicans to agree to a deal.
On Friday, President Barack Obama repeated his demand that tax rates on incomes over $250,000 should be allowed to increase, putting him at odds with members of the GOP leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner, who has maintained a hard-line opposition to any tax rate increase, but who says he's open to revenue-boosting changes to the tax code.
Corker said the differences between the president and House GOP were not insurmountable.
"I'm optimistic" on a deal, Corker said on Fox News, adding he thought "a basis for the deal" was in place.
"I think finally, Democrats are willing to accept -- and I don't mean this pejoratively, but I think they know that Republicans really are willing to put revenues on the table if we can do it in a pro-growth way, and there is a way of doing that," Corker said.
Retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., agreed that the groundwork for a deal was in place.
"I absolutely believe there is," Conrad said, also on Fox. "Look, you can't settle every detail in these next few weeks. What you can do is agree on a framework agreement."
Obama and Boehner are positioned as the lead negotiators in the fiscal cliff showdown. On Friday, the president invited congressional leaders from both parties to the White House this week to launch talks on finding a solution to the looming tax increases and budget cuts.
One top aide to Obama said Sunday he was encouraged by Boehner's recent remarks on the fiscal cliff.
"I don't want to pre-judge the discussions," David Axelrod said on CBS. "I think that the speaker's comment have been encouraging. And obviously, there's money to be gained by closing some of these --closing some of these loopholes and applying them to deficit reduction."
"I think there are a lot of ways to skin this cat, so long as everybody comes with a positive, constructive attitude towards the task," the former White House official said.