Obama 'confident' debt deal will come together

President Obama said Tuesday he was "confident" that Republicans would ultimately back legislation that would extend tax cuts to the middle class and raise taxes on the top earners as part of a deal on the so-called "fiscal cliff."

"I'm pretty confident that Republicans would not hold middle-class taxes hostage to trying to protect tax cuts for high-income individuals," Obama said in an interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News. "I don't think they'll do that."

The interview on Tuesday came as both the White House and Speaker of the House John Boehner swapped deficit-reduction proposals. The White House submitted a proposal to Boehner on Monday and the Speaker sent a counter offer back late Tuesday afternoon, a senior administration official said. With the clock ticking on a deal, Obama and Boehner spoke by phone Tuesday, the official said, but a deal did not yet seem imminent.

Obama has repeatedly said he would not sign a bill that does not increase taxes on those in the top income bracket. 

But GOP leaders would like to see the administration bend on entitlements. One proposed idea, or as Obama put it, "some that's been floated," is to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. But Obama didn't seem entirely convinced about the plan.

"When you look at the evidence, it's not clear that it actually saves a lot of money," he said. "But what I've said is 'Let's look at every avenue because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations.' The current path is not sustainable because we've got an aging population and healthcare costs are shooting up so quickly."

But Obama said he remains "confident" that a deal will come together.

"I'd like to see a big package," Obama said. "But the most important thing we can do is make sure that middle-class taxes do not go up on Jan. 1st."