And at the Wall Street Journal, "Both Sides to Meet at White House; Any Deal Likely to Be Limited":
Congress and the White House took small steps toward breaking the budget impasse Thursday, but Democrats and Republicans grew increasingly fearful they won't be able to avert the tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff, a prospect that is unnerving consumers and investors.Continue reading.
President Barack Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House on Friday afternoon for a last-ditch effort to broker a deal, as the Senate returned to Washington on Thursday. House GOP leaders said in a Thursday conference call with Republicans, who are growing nervous about their party being blamed for the deadlock, that the House will reconvene Sunday evening.
It is still possible the two sides can reach a deal, especially with the leaders meeting Friday. Any resolution would be a scaled-back version of the package Mr. Obama and congressional leaders had anticipated passing after the November election. The White House is pressing for the Senate to extend current tax rates for income up to $250,000, extend unemployment benefits, keep the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions of additional taxpayers and delay spending cuts set to take effect in January.
The 11th-hour strategy carries enormous risk because it leaves no margin for error in Congress's balky legislative machinery. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the prospects for passage of a bill before the last day of the year are fading rapidly. "I have to be very honest," he said. "I don't know time-wise how it can happen now."
Anxiety about Washington's ability to resolve its budget battles is roiling the economy. Conference Board figures showed that consumer confidence fell in December to its lowest level since August, driven by a pessimistic outlook for economic activity next year.
Stocks have swung on the latest news from Washington. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell sharply on Mr. Reid's pessimistic comments before recouping most of a 151-point drop on news the House would reconvene this weekend.
At best, leaders are looking at a narrow bill that could be passed at the last minute. At the meeting Friday, Mr. Obama will outline the elements he thinks should be in a deal and could get majority support in both chambers of Congress, according to a person familiar with the matter. He won't put forward a specific bill or legislative language, the person added.
And at Telegraph UK, "Barack Obama will meet congressional leaders today at the White House for last-minute talks on a "fiscal cliff" deal to avoid automatic tax increases and broad spending cuts that threaten the US economy's recovery."
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