Rep. Cummings: Obama ‘determined’ to get deal before cliff deadline

"[Obama] said, 'don't pack up your bags.' In other words: he's determined to get this deal done and to get it done before the end of the year," said Cummings on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports." 

Cummings met with President Obama earlier Tuesday, as the White House and lawmakers begin to negotiate a deficit-reduction deal before tax hikes and automatic spending cuts, which economists warn could spark a recession, take effect in 2013.

Cummings, a member of the Joint Economic Committee, called for a "balanced" package of revenue increases and "targeted cuts." 

However, the Maryland congressman showed reluctance to commit to concessions on entitlement spending, such as raising the age requirement or means testing for Medicare. 

"[O]ne of the things we can do is start negotiating these drug prices, Andrea. That's something we definitely can do, but I think we're going to have to be very, very careful with Medicare. When you're talking about things like extending the age, you got to look at that, because a lot of people don't work in air conditioned offices and have an easy life and so they become ill earlier than others," Cummings said. 

Some Republicans have said they would be open to new tax revenues in a deficit deal, but insist that Democrats place entitlement reform on the negotiating table

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of failing to meet GOP moves towards compromise.

When pressed on whether House Democrats would be willing to "show some give" on healthcare reform, Cummings expressed caution and suggested that lawmakers keep entitlements off the table in the upcoming fiscal-cliff negotiations.

"I think we need to take a very careful approach. I think we've got to look at Medicare, find out where savings can be had, but I do not want to see the basic structure of Medicare being tampered with," he said. 

Cummings suggested that Medicare and Social Security "be set on the side" and addressed carefully. 

Cummings said there were other programs where lawmakers could make "targeted" cuts, mentioning money to farmers as one such reduction.