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Political bickering over fiscal cliff persists

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"We are hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that protects the middle class and our economy," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

The bill, had it passed, would have put Republicans on record as supporting a tax increase on those who earn more than $1 million per year, breaking with decades of orthodoxy. It won the blessing of influential anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, but other conservative groups fiercely opposed it and many rank-and-file members said they would not support it.

Obama wants to raise taxes on families earning more than $400,000, a much lower threshold.

Recession threat 

Obama and Boehner aim to reach a deal before the New Year, when taxes will automatically rise for nearly all Americans and the government will have to scale back spending on domestic and military programs. Economists say the combined $600 billion hit to the economy could push the U.S. economy into recession.

Boehner said Obama now must first pass a bill through the Democratic-controlled Senate before he holds another vote in the House.

Democrats said Boehner should first hammer out a deal with Obama. "The only way to avoid the cliff altogether is for Speaker Boehner to return to negotiations," said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

With Republicans in chaos, Boehner will almost certainly need support from House Democrats to pass a deal before the end of the year. But he will have to keep an eye on his right flank before he stands for re-election as the top House lawmaker on Jan. 3.

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