President Barack Obama met with Democratic congressional leaders at the White House on Monday, eager to seal a year-end bipartisan agreement to extend expiring tax cuts to all Americans and renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.
The White House has also been floating the possibility of including a temporary payroll tax holiday in any agreement as a way to help stimulate the economy, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss recent developments.
Democrats have been critical of Obama for signaling a willingness to bow to Republican demands that any tax cut extension apply at upper income levels as well as to the middle class.
The White House meeting took place shortly after Obama returned to Washington from a trip to North Carolina, where he said he and Congress must "make sure we're coming up with a solution, even if it's not 100 percent what I want or 100 percent what the Republicans want."
Momentum for a year-end deal picked up after Obama met at the White House last week with Republican leaders for the first time since midterm elections, and accelerated again when the government reported last week that joblessness had risen in November, to 9.8 percent.
The flurry of negotiations is taking place with lawmakers eager to wrap up their work for the year and adjourn for the holidays.
Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have all said in recent days they believe a deal on tax cuts and unemployment benefits is possible by midweek. If so, that would leave time for the Senate to hold a ratification debate on a new arms control treaty with Russia, which Obama has made a top year-end priority.
Senate Republicans have seemed more willing to hold a ratification debate in recent days as the negotiations over taxes intensified, suggesting at least an implicit link between the two issues in the talks.