"Constructive" was the buzzword of the day at the White House, following today's first fiscal cliff summit between President Obama and top congressional leaders.
President Obama and top congressional leaders on Friday convened their first "fiscal cliff" summit, seeking to avert an economically-toxic package of sweeping tax hikes and deep spending cuts that will take effect in 46 days without a bipartisan deal.
All the major players used the word to describe the conversation that lasted 70 minutes in the Roosevelt Room.
"The President and the leadership had a constructive meeting," spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. "We will continue a constructive process to find a solution and come to a conclusion as soon as possible."
House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were equally sanguine, appearing together outside the West Wing in a rare joint photo-op.
"I believe that we can do this and avert the fiscal cliff that's in front of us today," said Boehner.
Reid said he felt "very good" about the tenor of the talks. "We have a cornerstones of being able to work something out," he said. "We're both going to have to give up some of the things that we know are a problem."
Both sides agreed to lay out "milestones of success so that confidence can build" among the American people, said Pelosi. "I feel confident that a solution is in sight."
Negotiators will work "during the Thanksgiving recess" with a goal of not waiting until the last day of December to reach a deal, according to Reid. The White House said senior officials would continue meeting with congressional staff over the next several days while Obama travels in Asia.
The meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House was the first face-to-face encounter between Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell since the election last week. They will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Obama and Boehner sat next to each other for a brief photo opportunity before the meeting began.
"I think we're all aware that we have some urgent business to do," the president said, arguing that all sides want to avoid tax hikes on the middle class and keep the economy growing.
"My hope is that this is going to be the beginning of a fruitful process that we're going to come to an agreement that will reduce our deficit in a balanced way," he said.
There was a moment of levity during the photo opportunity when Obama wished Boehner a happy birthday. Boehner turns 63 tomorrow, but Obama joked that the negotiators wouldn't embarrass him with a cake with so many candles.
Boehner laughed at the joke.
Not all aspects of the negotiations are likely to be so lighthearted. Leaders on both sides must hammer out a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion or more, identifying a mutually agreeable combination of spending cuts and potential revenue increases, through higher rates or eliminated loopholes and deductions. The plan must also address a series of expiring tax cuts or credits that touch nearly all Americans.