The bipartisan leadership of Congress sounded optimistic what they addressed reporters outside the entrance to the West Wing on Friday following their meeting with the president, vice president and members of the White House economic team. House Speaker John Boehner spoke first, calling the meeting "constructive" and vowing to keep additional revenue on the table:
We had a very constructive meeting with the president to talk about America's fiscal problem. I outlined a framework that deals with reforming our tax code and reforming our spending and I believe that the framework that I've outlined in our meeting today is consistent with the President's call for a fair and balanced approach. To show our seriousness, we've put revenue on the table, as long as it's accompanied by serious spending cuts. And while we're going to continue to have revenue on the table, it's going to be incumbent for my colleagues to show the American people that we're serious about cutting spending and solving our fiscal dilemma. Now I believe that we can do this and aver the fiscal cliff that's right in front of us today.
Next, Majority Leader Harry Reid stepped up to the the microphone. Using the common parlance of Washington D.C., Reid also called the meeting "constructive," repeatedly saying that he felt "very good" about what the leaders discussed, and promising not to wait until the last possible moment to get a deal done:
This isn't the first time that we've dealt with these issues. We feel we understand what the problem is and we've felt very – I feel very good about what we were able to talk about in there. We have the cornerstones of being able to work something out. We're both going to have to give up some of the things that we know are a problem. And so it's like when you arrive at a point where we all know something has to be done. There is no more 'let's do it some other time.' We're going to do it now and I think we feel very comfortable with each other and this isn't something we're going to wait until the last day of December to get it done. We have a plan. We're going to move forward on it. We're going to work during the Thanksgiving recess. We're going to meet with the president when we come back the first week – at least that's as I understand it. So I think it was a very constructive meeting. I feel very good about what we were able to talk about.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke next, emphasizing that her priority was to send a strong signal to consumers and the markets that the leaders are committed to finding a solution. Pelosi also acknowledged that if they aren't able to find a solution, the consequences could be severe:
It was a very constructive meeting. We had a recognition that every person in America knows that we must reach agreement. The speaker spoke about a framework going into next year, I was focusing on how we send a message of confidence to consumers, to the markets in the short run too. That is to say that we should have a goal, in terms of how much deficit reduction, we should have a deadline before Christmas. We should share some milestones of success so that confidence can build as we reach out solution, because if we do not reach agreement not only will we miss the opportunity for doing something good for our economy and lifting the spirits and the confidence in our country we will have an economic downturn that must be avoided. We understand our responsibility there. We understand our responsibility there. We understand that it has to be about cuts, it has to be about revenue, it has to be about growth, it has to be about the future. So as we cut investments and as we talk about revenue we have to do so in a way that promotes growth and supports the future. It was good. I feel confident that a solution may be in sight.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was brief and arguably the least enthusiastic. While he acknowledged that Republicans in the senate are "prepared to put revenue on the table," he also emphasized his caucus' view that spending was the primary problem:
I can only echo the observations of the other leaders that it was constructive meeting. We all understand where we are. I can say on the part of my members that we fully understand that you can't save the country until you have entitlement programs that fit the demographics of the changing America in the coming years. We're prepared to put revenue on the table provided we fix the real problem even though most of my members, I think without exception, believe that we're in the dilemma we're in not because we tax too little but because we spend too much.
McConnell finished his comments with praise for the president's upcoming trip to Burma, a country the leader said he has had "a longstanding interest in over the last 20 years."
Press Secretary Jay Carney put out this readout from the White House following the meeting, also sounding fairly optimistic:
Today, the President met with the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress at the White House for over an hour. The President and the leadership had a constructive meeting and agreed to do everything possible to find a solution that averts the so-called “fiscal cliff,” and to work together to find a balanced approach to reduce our deficit that includes both revenues and cuts in spending and encourages our long-term economic and job growth. Both sides agreed that while there may be differences in our preferred approaches, we will continue a constructive process to find a solution and come to a conclusion as soon as possible. Members of the President’s senior team will continue meetings and discussions with Members of Congress and staff over the next several days while the President travels in Asia.