(Scroll down for updates on the GOP's "plan B" and White House rejecting it.)
Talks are "heating up."
Differences are "narrowing."
The two sides have "moved close to agreement."
Whichever way you put it, the stories this morning about talks to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff of year-end tax increases and automatic spending cuts all seem to be saying that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, are within reach of a deal.
As NPR's Scott Horsley put it on Morning Edition, the lawmakers appear to have "scaled the walls of ideology. Now they just have to wade through the muck of math" to make the numbers work
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein summed up the shape of the still-evolving deal this way:
-- "Boehner offered to let tax rates rise for income over $1 million. The White House wanted to let tax rates rise for income over $250,000. The compromise will likely be somewhere in between."
-- "On the spending side, the Democrats' headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI, which is to say, accepting a cut to Social Security benefits."
Of course, we've seen the president and House speaker come close to striking a "grand bargain" before, only to see the deal fall apart.
Update at 11:35 a.m. ET. White House Says GOP's "Plan B" Won't Work.
In a statement just sent to reporters, White House spokesman Jay Carney says:
"The president has put a balanced, reasonable proposal on the table that achieves significant deficit reduction and reflects real compromise by meeting the Republicans halfway on revenue and more than halfway on spending from where each side started. That is the essence of compromise.
"The parameters of a deal are clear, and the president is willing to continue to work with Republicans to reach a bipartisan solution that averts the fiscal cliff, protects the middle class, helps the economy, and puts our nation on a fiscally sustainable path. But he is not willing to accept a deal that doesn't ask enough of the very wealthiest in taxes and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors.
The speaker's 'Plan B' approach doesn't meet this test because it can't pass the Senate and therefore will not protect middle class families, and does little to address our fiscal challenges with zero spending cuts. The president is hopeful that both sides can work out remaining differences and reach a solution so we don't miss the opportunity in front of us today."
Update at 10:18 a.m. ET. As Talks Continue, Republicans Propose "Plan B":
Speaking to reporters a few minutes ago, Boehner said the president has proposed $1.3 trillion in new revenues, but "only $850 billion in net spending reductions."
The president, Boehner said, "isn't there yet" when it comes to a "balanced" plan.
So, while talks continue, Republicans are drafting a "plan B," the speaker said. It would "protect American taxpayers who make $1 million [a year] or less and have all their current [tax] rates extended." That, he added, is "the right course of action for us."