Face to face with time running short, President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner negotiated at the White House Thursday night in what aides called "frank" talks aimed at breaking a stubborn deadlock and steering the nation away from an economy-threatening "fiscal cliff."
Boehner returned to the Capitol an hour later, briskly walking past reporters without comment. There was no indication whether any progress had been made, though the use of the word "frank" by both sides to describe the talks suggested the president and the speaker stuck hard to their opposing positions.
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The meeting came shortly after Obama suggested that the sluggish pace of deficit-cutting talks between the administration and congressional Republicans was a result of a "contentious caucus" of GOP lawmakers who were making it difficult for Boehner to negotiate.
Boehner saw it differently. He said earlier in the day: "Unfortunately, the White House is so unserious about cutting spending that it appears willing to slow-walk any agreement and walk our economy right up to the fiscal cliff."
Thursday night's meeting was the two men's second face-to-face encounter in five days as they seek to find an agreement that avoids major tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to kick in January. Also attending were Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Obama's chief congressional lobbyist, Rob Nabors.
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Before the meeting, Boehner accused Obama of dragging out negotiations. Obama is insisting on higher tax rates for household incomes above $250,000 to cut federal deficits; Boehner says he opposes higher rates, though he has said he would be willing to raise tax revenue instead by closing loopholes and deductions.
Obama, in an interview during the day with WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, said that he was hopeful of a "change in attitude" from Republicans on raising taxes on the wealthy. "It shouldn't be hard to get resolved," he said.