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Obama's fiscal cliff meeting

President Barack Obama has asked congressional leaders to convene Friday at the White House for last-minute talks on a "fiscal cliff" deal that avoids automatic tax increases and broad spending cuts that threaten the economy's nascent recovery.

The development capped a day of growing urgency in which Obama returned early from a Hawaiian holiday and planned to meet with top members of Congress just four days before the government goes over the so-called fiscal cliff if no deal is reached.

The bitter partisan fight is over reining in deficit spending by raising taxes for some wealthy earners, the Democrats' priority, and cutting some popular benefit programs, as demanded by Republicans.

As the Senate reconvened Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that the U.S. appeared to be headed over the year-end "fiscal cliff" with no deal in sight. He also slammed House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner for not immediately reconvening the House. Boehner called the House back into session for a highly unusual Sunday evening session. Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the House could be in session until Jan. 2, the day before the new congress is sworn in.

Friday's meeting would be the first time Obama has huddled with all the leaders of Congress since Nov. 16 and would represent that last hope for a deal before the year-end deadline. 

The Canadian Press

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