President Barack Obama and congressional leaders held talks Friday at the White House about the fiscal cliff.
Although lawmakers have until year's end to reach a deal to back away from automatic spending cuts and tax increases, pressure is mounting to hammer an agreement much sooner.
Ratings agencies have warned that the U.S. could lose its pristine credit rating if negotiations do not produce a resolution.
Americans are counting on lawmakers to ride a wave of bipartisan rhetoric to avert a crisis that would derail a fragile economy recovery.
"I think we're all aware that we have some urgent business to do," Obama said before sitting down behind closed doors with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
"We've got to make sure that taxes don't go up on middle-class families, that our economy remains strong. That's an agenda that Democrats and Republicans and independents, people all across the country, share."
Following last week's Election Day drubbing, some Republicans have reportedly softened their hard line on fighting taxes against the wealthy.
"The people have spoken, I think we're going to have to be [more flexible] now," said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell at a conference of Republican governors. "Elections do have consequences. The president campaigned on that."
However, Mitch McConnell, the GOP's top man in the Senate, continues to resist Obama's proposal to raise taxes on upper-income earners.
The president's populist tone may play well with voters, McConnell said, but, "You can't tax your way out of the problem."
While raising tax rates is a non-starter, McConnell said Republicans are prepared to negotiate on other ways to raise revenues.
Still, he called the talks "constructive," but warned that that no solution would work unless significant changes are made to entitlement programs.
by RTT Staff Writer
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