The United States economy was cruising towards the disaster of the looming "fiscal cliff" on Wednesday as President Barack Obama's Republican opponents warned a budget deal was still far off.
The newly re-elected White House chief is locked in a stand-off with lawmakers over a budget deal that would prevent the onset of a toxic package of tax hikes and deep spending cuts kicking in at the end of the year.
"We don't have an agreement today," the top Republican in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner, told reporters a day after his latest meeting with Obama to exchange compromise offers.
"I remain the most optimistic person in this town, but we've got some serious differences," he said.
Boehner acknowledged that Obama lowered his opening gambit of $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over 10 years to $1.4 trillion, but said the White House was not putting forward enough spending cuts to make the deal palatable.
"The longer the White House slow-walks this discussion, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff, and the more American jobs are placed in jeopardy," he warned.
While the White House's lower tax revenue offer is now public, Boehner's office declined to provide any new details on the Republican counter-offer.
Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor warned lawmakers to expect a shortened end-of-year holiday that could see them huddled in Washington between Christmas and New Year in order to pass fiscal legislation.
"We are going to stay here right up until Christmas Eve, throughout the time and period before the New Year, because we want to make sure that we resolve this in an acceptable way for the American people," Cantor said.
The White House and Republicans are up against the clock when it comes to averting a crisis that economists say could tip the US economy back into recession.
If no deal is agreed before the end of the year, taxes will go up on all Americans and automatic and savage cuts to government spending will begin.
Obama has demanded that Republicans agree to raise taxes on the rich as part of any deal, while Boehner has offered more revenue, but only by closing loopholes and capping deductions -- a plan the president says falls short.
After recent signs that the differences might be narrowing, with a face-to-face meeting Sunday and two Obama-Boehner phone calls this week, the speaker said the two sides remain far apart.
"His plan does not begin to solve our debt crisis. It actually increases spending," Boehner said.
Democrats say Republicans must step forward with a clearer outline of the spending cuts they would like to see.
"Spending cuts are their suggestion -- put them on the table," senior House Democrat Steny Hoyer said Tuesday. "We're not going to fill in the details of their proposal."
It is increasingly unlikely that a grand bargain addressing tax revenue, spending cuts, a deal on raising the debt ceiling, as well as reform of the tax code and the country's entitlement programs can be completed by year end.
While Republicans want cuts to entitlements as part of a fiscal deal, top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Obama has already agreed to more than $1 trillion in cuts to Medicare and other health care spending.
Such savings should be considered a "down payment" for broader negotiations next year, she said.
"Let's do something significant now and then in the next stage we can address further entitlement reform as well as reform of the tax code," Pelosi told CBS News.
"Just get it done and make corrections and expansions on it next year."