While past attempts at big deals have failed, this time Obama has serious leverage: House Republicans loathe the fiscal cliff's policies.
In politics, competence sometimes serves as a rhetorical proxy for intent. Politicians like to talk about how terrific they/their ideas are. They aren’t always as gabby about what they/those ideas aim to accomplish. Example: privatization. Some conservatives insist that private enterprise is simply more efficient--more competent--than the government. So why not let the private sector take over certain public functions? But even if we concede that business is categorically more efficient than government, there remains the question of what it's doing so efficiently.
If we can put a man on the moon and then, 40 years later, persist in spending far more on spacecraft than on passenger trains, we ought to be able to distribute an income-tax receipt that says so.