In a test of divided government, the White House and congressional Republicans bargained in secret and sparred in public Tuesday over a deal to prevent year-end tax increases for middle class millions and spending cuts across much of the nation.
Officials disclosed that President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner had exchanged at least partial proposals in the past two days, although details were sparse and evidence of significant progress scarcer still.
"The longer the White House slow-walks this process the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff," said Boehner, declaring that the president had yet to identify specific cuts to government benefit programs that he would support as part of an agreement that also would raise tax revenue.
In rebuttal, the White House swiftly detailed numerous proposals Obama has made to cut spending. And the House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, challenged Boehner to allow a vote on the president's proposal to extend most expiring tax cuts while letting them lapse at higher incomes.
Officials who disclosed the exchange between the president and Boehner did so only on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to publicly talk about details.