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Obama: 'We Can Probably Solve This in a Week'

President Obama speaks on the "fiscal cliff" during the Washington Business Roundtable on Wednesday.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
President Obama speaks on the "fiscal cliff" during the Washington Business Roundtable on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama told business leaders Wednesday a deal on the "fiscal cliff" could be reached in a week if Republicans accepted the idea of higher tax rates on the wealthy.

"We're not insisting on rates out of spite, but rather we need to raise a certain amount of revenue," Obama told the Business Roundtable, an association representing chief executives of large U.S.firms.

"Among some Republicans over the last several days, I think there's been some recognition they can accept some rate increases as long as it's combined with serious entitlement reform and additional spending cut," Obama said.

"If we can get the Republican leadership to accept that framework, then the numbers actually aren't that far apart."

"Another way of putting this: We can probably solve this in about a week," Obama added. "It's not that tough."

Shortly before he spoke, however, Republicans said the talks were deadlocked, and they demanded a meeting with the president to move the negotiations forward.

"Nothing is going on," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters, following a meeting with fellow Republicans. "We ask the president to sit down with us."

"We can't negotiate with ourselves," Republican House Speaker John Boehner said.

Obama called for a smooth increase in the nation's borrowing. He warned Republicans against following a strategy of threatening not to raise the debt ceiling in order to get concessions from the White House. "I will not play that game," he said.

The president is embarked on an aggressive campaign to pressure congressional Republicans to compromise on steps to avoid the so-called :fiscal cliff." He wants corporate executives that it would hurt the nation's economy to have another protracted political fight over raising the debt limit.

It was the reluctance of congressional Republicans to agree to such an increase in 2011 without deep spending cuts that brought the nation to the brink of default. The result was a historic lowering of the U.S. credit rating and a setback to the recovery from a recession that ended in 2009.

The statutory ceiling on U.S. Treasury borrowing is $16.4 trillion. The nation is expected to hit the legal limit near the year's end, although it can tap emergency measures to stave off a default and keep the government running into early 2013.

If Congress fails to raise the borrowing cap, analysts expect the Treasury would run out of options to avoid a default some time in the latter half of February. That forecast could change depending on how the administration and Congress deal with the fiscal cliff at the end of the year.

The president and Republicans are battling over how to avoid automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts. The president wants to extend expiring tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans while Republican leaders are dug in against allowing any taxes rises at all.

If the administration and lawmaker remain at loggerheads,going over the fiscal cliff is projected to throw the weak economy back into recession.

Obama, re-elected to a second term last month in part on a pledge to raise taxes on the wealthy, has sought to pressure Congress into yielding on tax increases with a stream of meetings with a wide range of interest groups, including businesses, nonprofits and governors.

The White House announced Wednesday that he will go to Detroit on Monday to push his proposals.