Obama adviser David Axelrod signaled optimism Friday that a deficit-reduction deal will be reached this month.
Axelrod said President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) face obstacles and dismissed the House GOP's proposal of $800 billion in new tax revenues as insufficient because it doesn't specify what tax breaks would be closed and fails to raise rates on the rich.
But Axelrod said he was encouraged with the direction of the negotiations.
Boehner has reportedly asked that he and Obama have private talks on a deal to avert planned spending cuts and scheduled tax hikes set for January that economists warn could trigger a recession. All of the Bush-era tax rates are set to expire, and $1.1 trillion in spending cuts triggered by last year's debt deal will also begin to be made.
Both sides have made initial offers in the talks, and there have been signs that Republicans and Democrats are willing to deal.
Obama is demanding that Republicans agree to raise tax rates on family household income above $250,000. Republicans want deep entitlement reforms and have balked so far at raising tax rates.
Yet the GOP has said new tax revenue can be on the table, and Obama has expressed a willingness to talk about entitlements.
Axelrod said Boehner and Obama are "having conversations by themselves and their aides go and act" afterward.
"At this point, I think both the president and the Speaker are very fluent in the basic numbers," Axelrod continued. "They've been living with them for some time now. So, like I said, I don't think there's a lot of mystery about this."
In a separate interview also on Friday on MSNBC, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) predicted that legislators would come to some kind of agreement avoiding the fiscal cliff spending cuts and tax increases but that deal would just be a patch, not a long-term solution.
"It's a simple deal but the circumstances are not simple. And, I think we're going to get a deal — that's my optimistic side. We're going to get a deal," Cleaver said. "My pessimistic side says that it will be later. We may do something between now and Jan. 1 but there is no way we're going to do what needs to be done between now and Dec. 31."