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Obama-Boehner 'fiscal cliff' handshake: Could it actually hold?

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For now at least, President Obama is holding to his demand that families earning more than $250,000 chip in more taxes, which he says could bring in $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years.

Speaker Boehner says Republicans are willing to consider additional revenues. Whether he meant new taxes remains unclear. But on its face, the statement indicated a change from the summer of 2011, when a majority of Americans concluded that tea party Republicans were actively seeking gridlock in order to force Democrats toward spending cuts.

“To show our seriousness, we’ve put revenue on the table as long as it’s accompanied by significant spending cuts,” said Boehner.

Commenting on a recent Washington Post-Pew Research poll that shows 53 percent of Americans leaning toward blaming Republicans again if Congress can’t strike a deal with Obama, columnist Froma Harrop notes that, “Understanding this, thoughtful Republicans are feeling freer to risk the tea partyers’ wrath and cooperate with Democrats. The teams may disagree on much, but at least they’re now playing in the same ballpark.”

One big question is whether the House, where a tea party caucus still has the power to scuttle a deal, will agree to new taxes without philosophical concessions from Democrats in return.

There’s been talk in tea party circles about ending tax breaks for specific interests with ties to liberals, such as Hollywood’s entertainment industry, and even limiting the amount Americans can write off as charitable donations. Some Republicans have also pushed for a “minimum tax” that all Americans have to pay, so that the approximately 47 percent of Americans who don’t mail the government a check every year have, as pundits have put it, “skin in the game.”

But on more concrete points, political experts noted that the meeting between Obama, Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave some clues as to a path forward.

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