ANALYSIS: Fiscal Cliffhanger Talk at White House

Photo: Are Democrats Victims of Their Own Success? Voters Do Not Seem Impressed With Democrats Legislative VictoriesOfficial White House Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama holds a meeting with leaders of the House and Senate, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Feb. 10, 2010. The hard political paradox Democrats face is that for their accomplishments, voters from the left, right and center, are not to be impressed and all signs point toward stiff losses if not the loss of one or both Houses of Congress by Democrats in November.

It seems appropriate that at the White House last night President Obama held a private screening of the new film, "Lincoln," which features a close-up look at a dramatic period of intensive legislative maneuvering between the president and Congress.

The movie the president saw last night (along with special guests, including director Steven Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kushner and producer Kathleen Kennedy) focused on passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States -- a victory the movie portrays President Lincoln winning with equal parts patronage and old-fashioned arm-twisting.

Fast forward nearly 150 years and President Obama and legislative leaders are dealing with a far different set of issues, but as both sides meet today in an attempt to avoid the "fiscal cliff," the essential dynamic of give-and-take is not all that different.

  • Congressional Leaders Gather At The White House

INFOGRAPHIC: What to Know About the Fiscal Cliff

As ABC's Devin Dwyer and John Parkinson report, the meeting will take place this morning in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. It will be the first face-to-face encounter between Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell since the election last week. They will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The goal is to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion and address the expiring Bush-era tax cuts -- and to do it all by December 31. A missed deadline means tax increases on all Americans and cuts to government spending on social programs and defense that economic analysts fear could send the country into another fiscal shock.

Dwyer notes that ahead of today's gathering, "Obama has signaled that he will make a concerted push for Congress to immediately enact the one thing all sides agree on: extending Bush tax rates for families earning $250,000 or less, or 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses. Administration officials say the president's starting point for broader negotiations will be his call for $1.6 trillion in new revenue over the next 10 years."

Parkinson hears this from a senior aide to House Speaker John Boehner: "As a sign of our seriousness, Republicans have put revenue on the table, provided it comes from tax reform and is accompanied by spending cuts. President Obama must now follow suit by telling the American people what spending cuts he's willing to make."

More from their preview of today's negotiations HERE.