President Barack Obama, trying to break the stalemate over the fiscal crisis, challenged Republicans on Friday to agree to a quick deal to prevent a tax increase for all but the wealthiest Americans and the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits.
"Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get this done," Obama said in urging Republicans and Democrats to work out a deal with only 10 days before the country plunges over the "fiscal cliff."
Obama made his comments as both sides struggled to find a way to break the deadlock in the wake of a stunning defeat of House Speaker John Boehner's alternative tax plan.
Obama addressed reporters after speaking with Boehner and meeting with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
"I met them halfway on taxes and I met them more than have way on spending. In terms of actual dollar amounts, we're not that far apart," the president said.
Obama said he remains committed to a comprehensive package. But noting the deadline in 10 days, he said "let's agree right now on what we already agree on" -- a package that would extend the Bush-era tax rates for middle class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million people and lays the groundwork for further talks on economic growth and deficit reduction.
"We just have to do the right thing," he said.