US Fiscal Cliff- Obama says fiscal deal too important for Washington to screw up

US President Barack Obama said he believes that members of both parties can reach a framework on a debt-cutting deal before Christmas. 

He was joined by about a dozen middle-class Americans at a White House event in the midst of negotiation on how to avoid a so-called fiscal cliff which involves tax hikes and steep spending cuts. 

Meanwhile, Republican unity against raising tax rates for the wealthy is starting to show cracks after a conservative congressman said he will back an agreement with President Obama to raise rates on the rich. 

Representative Tom Cole said Republicans should approve a deal ensuring 98 percent of Americans do not suffer a tax increase that endangers the economic recovery. 

But House Speaker John Boehner said increasing taxes on the top two percent of wage earners will be a mistake and will hurt the economy.