U.S. President Barack Obama will hold last-minute White House talks with the top four congressional leaders as the deadline for avoiding the fiscal cliff fast approaches.
Mr. Obama will meet Friday with Democratic and Republican Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
If there is no deal by January 1, nearly every American will see his or her taxes go up, along with automatic government spending cuts. Economists fear this could plunge the fragile economy back into recession.
Congressional Republican leaders have also called the House back into session this Sunday evening. The House adjourned last week after failing to agree on a fiscal cliff deal with the White House.
The Senate, however, kept working. Reid said Thursday that it looks to him like the economy will go over the cliff. He blasted Boehner, accusing him of running a dictatorship in the House and being more concerned with saving his job.
Boehner shot back, saying Reid ought to talk less and legislate more. He says Senate Democrats have refused to pass a long-term deficit reduction package that would stop the economy from going over the cliff.
Boehner has also blamed President Obama for what he says is the president's unwillingness to cut spending.
President Obama has insisted that raising taxes on wealthy Americans along with some spending cuts is the only practical way to cut the country's huge deficit. Conservative Republicans do not want anyone's taxes to go up. They rejected Boehner's alternative plan to raise taxes only on Americans making at least $1 million per year. The president's offer would let taxes go up for those making at least $400,000.
Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the nation's debt ceiling will reach its $16.4 trillion limit Monday, New Year's Eve. The ceiling is a limit on how much money the government can borrow to avoid defaulting on its debt. Geithner says Treasury officials will take what he calls “extraordinary measures” under the law to avoid default.