President Barack Obama and congressional leaders gathered for the first time since the election to begin talks about how to resolve the year-end fiscal cliff. They have 46 days before deep federal spending cuts and dramatic tax increases come into force, affecting nearly all Americans and possibly pushing the economy into recession.
The meeting came after more than a week of positioning by Mr Obama and the leading lawmakers. The key point of division between the President and the Republicans is taxes, and both sides have made their opening bids.
Mr Obama wants to freeze tax rates for all families earning less than $250,000 a year and allow Bush-era tax concessions to expire, as scheduled, for wealthier Americans.
"This would not only give certainty to millions of American families and small businesses but also resolve more than half of the impact of the so-called fiscal cliff," a White House official said. Mr Obama "will be making clear that he is willing to compromise and do tough things to get this done, but only in the context of a balanced approach that also asks more in revenues from the wealthiest Americans."
Republicans say any new tax revenue must be found by limiting deductions that benefit the wealthy and from economic growth.