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Fiscal Cliff Talks to Get Real on Thursday

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Rob Nabors will meet separately with each of the top four congressional leaders Thursday on Capitol Hill, multiple sources from both parties confirmed.

The top Obama administration officials will travel down Pennsylvania Avenue to hold private conversations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The four closed-door meetings will take place a day after President Barack Obama delivered remarks at the White House about the ongoing negotiations and a day before he hits the road to hold a campaign-style event in Pennsylvania to tout middle-class tax cuts outside of the Beltway.

“If both parties agree we should not raise taxes on middle-class families, let’s begin our work with where we agree,” Obama said Wednesday. “The Senate’s already passed a bill that keeps income taxes from going up on middle-class families. Democrats in the House are ready to vote for that same bill today. And, if we can get a few house Republicans to agree as well, I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way. I’ve got to repeat, I’ve got a pen, I’m ready to sign it.”

Congressional leaders have expressed pessimism in recent days over the progress of the talks, with McConnell saying this week that negotiators are at an “impasse” and Reid saying that both sides are making “little progress.”

The visits from the top White House figures could help smooth over recent bumps, including GOP frustration that the president is hitting the road instead of coming to the table.

“We are eager to hear the administration’s specific plans for protecting jobs and growth while reducing the national debt through strengthening the entitlement system, reducing Washington spending and preventing a tax hike on every American taxpayer,” McConnell spokesperson John Ashbrook said in a statement. “As Sen. McConnell made clear: ‘We can do this. But the President has to lead. That’s the issue here. It’s that simple.’”

Geithner and Nabors also will meet with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

“We accepted this meeting with the expectation that the White House team will bring a specific plan for real spending cuts — because spending cuts that Washington Democrats will accept is what is missing from the ‘balanced approach’ that the president says he wants,” a Boehner spokesman said.

Alan Ota contributed to this report.

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