WASHINGTON - White House and congressional negotiators will have to clear a series of high hurdles to avert a package of tax increases and spending cuts by year's end.
Arguments over tax rates top the list.
President Barack Obama says the richest Americans must pay higher tax rates. Republicans say they'll block such efforts.
Other hurdles have been erected by powerful lobbies to protect everything from benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare, to tax deductions for interest on home mortgages and contributions to charities.
Republicans from safe, conservative districts see little political incentive for compromising with Obama even though he won re-election.
Politicians in both parties dread imposing painful changes on Americans who for years have enjoyed high levels of government service at historically low tax levels.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says she's hopeful lawmakers can come to a deal to avoid a year-end "fiscal cliff" but any agreement has to include tax rate increases for the wealthy.
She tells ABC's "This Week" that she can't accept a deal that caps deductions and closes some loopholes but does not alter current tax rates for the wealthy.
The California Democrat says "just to close loopholes is far too little money" and other ideas have to be considered. Republicans have suggested they are open to finding more revenues.
Lawmakers are facing expiration of the George W. Bush-era tax deductions and across-the-board spending cuts that automatically hit in January -- the result of Congress' failure to reach a deficit-cutting deal last year.