Optimism on Capitol Hill as fiscal deadline nears

(CBS News) Hopes are mounting this weekend that agreement can be reached on a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

That's the combination of higher taxes and deep spending cuts that would automatically take effect on New Year's Day if Congress can't agree on a more targeted plan.

"I believe we can do this and avert the fiscal cliff that's right in front of us today," said Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

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The new tone of optimism, however, has not changed old partisan positions. Democrats still insist there has to be a tax increase on the wealthy.

"If it's going to bring in revenue, the president has been very clear that the higher-income people have to pay their fair share," said the House's Democratic Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Republicans still say they aren't budging until the president agrees to cut spending.

The two sides have identified the tax revenue they are willing to discuss and now it's time to talk about the spending reductions -- that's the prescription for moving forward.

The actual deadline for solving the fiscal cliff is Jan. 1, but to many, the economy needs an agreement much sooner.

"Hopefully it is possible by the middle of December, so the confidence of the markets and, most importantly, the confidence of the consumers returns to infuse our economy with -- with demand, which creates jobs," Pelosi said.

During this week's Thanksgiving break, Congressional budget experts will be crunching the numbers for the real negotiations a week from now, looking at what combination of new revenues and spending cuts could pull the nation back from the fiscal cliff.

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.