Sharp differences remained on Wednesday between congressional Republicans and the White House in talks to avert the "fiscal cliff" of steep tax hikes and budget cuts, and negotiators warned the showdown could drag on past Christmas.
A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released late on Wednesday, however, held the potential to shake up the stalemate. Three-quarters of those surveyed, including 61 percent of Republicans, said they would accept raising taxes on the wealthy to avoid the so-called cliff, as Democratic President Barack Obama is demanding.
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With Republicans in Congress already divided, that rejection by their own supporters of the core demand of Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner could further weaken his position.
Both sides refused to give any ground in public, one day after what Boehner described as a "frank" conversation with President Barack Obama about the remaining hurdles to a deal.
Boehner said Obama's latest proposal for $1.4 trillion (867.4 billion pounds) in new tax revenues did not fulfil his promise for a balanced approach to taming the federal deficit and could not pass Congress.
"I remain the most optimistic person in this town, but we've got some serious differences," Boehner told reporters after a meeting with House Republicans where he warned members the negotiations could run through the holidays and up to the end-of-year deadline.
If a deal is not reached, taxes will go up for almost all working Americans at the start of the New Year and steep government spending cuts will kick in.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would not relent on his demand that Republicans drop their opposition to raising new revenue by increasing the tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of all Americans.
"There is no way to do this without rates going up on the top earners," Carney said. The Republican stance that sufficient revenue could be gained by closing tax loopholes and limiting deductions was "just not plausible economic policy," he said.
In what has now become a daily battle of sound bites and political stagecraft, a group