WASHINGTON — Administration and congressional negotiators expressed optimism today as they emerged from a round of deficit-reduction talks, a contrast with the recent round of gloomy assessments and finger-pointing.
"We made very significant progress," said Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon, senior Republican on the Finance Committee, as he left the latest Capitol meeting over finding a way to slash at least $23 billion from the federal deficit. "It's the best meeting we've had."
Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, said: "I have to be happier than I was. We're kicking around new ideas at least, and that's worthwhile."
Asked about the earlier pessimistic tone of the talks, White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. said: "I don't think they're justified. . . . We're still meeting and I'm still hopeful."
Lawmakers would not say specifically what was discussed in the meeting. But Packwood said bargainers were examining spending cuts and would postpone talking about revenues until an agreement on spending was reached.
Earlier, House Speaker Jim Wright gave a gloomy assessment of the talks and renewed his charge that intransigence by President Reagan was standing in the way of progress.
"I don't feel very hopeful about them," Wright said when asked about the talks. The Speaker reasserted his intention that Congress move ahead with legislation of its own even while the talks continue.
"It behooves us . . . to put some things in place that can be achieved," Wright said, "even if the President doesn't come around to the reality of the situation."
"We can't just hide behind the President's intransigence," Wright said.
Wright's comments came a day after Reagan renewed his criticism of Congress, blaming Democrats for creating the huge deficits that have occurred during his Administration.
House Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), chairman of the talks, said Congress needed to move ahead with its legislative agenda, but that didn't mean the talks were failing.