Continued from page 2

So what’s the holdup?

They’re at loggerheads over some big questions.

Mr. Obama says any deal must include higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Many House Republicans oppose raising anyone’s tax rates. Mr. Boehner tried to get the House to vote for higher taxes only on incomes of more than $1 million but dropped the effort when it became clear he didn’t have the votes.

Republicans also insist on deeper spending cuts than Democrats want to make. And they want to bring the nation’s long-term debt under control by significantly curtailing the growth of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — changes that many Democrats oppose.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, wants more temporary economic “stimulus” spending to help speed up a sluggish recovery. Republicans say the nation can’t afford it.

The countdown

Time for deal-making is short, thanks to the holiday and congressional calendars. Some key dates for averting the fiscal cliff:

• Lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol after Christmas, leaving less than a week to vote on a compromise before year’s end.

• Mr. Obama and his family are in Hawaii for Christmas. The president said because the fiscal cliff was still unresolved, he would return to Washington sooner than planned.

• If lawmakers don’t reach a deal by Dec. 31, some economists worry that the financial markets might swoon.

• The current Congress is in session only through noon Eastern time Jan. 3. After that, a new Congress with 13 new senators and 82 new House members would inherit the problem.