President Barack Obama plans a private lunch tomorrow with his election opponent Mitt Romney, amid a face-off with congressional Republicans over taxes and spending and how to cut the deficit.

The White House announced the meeting today as Obama mounts a campaign-style push to break Republican resistance to Obama’s proposal, which would extend reduced rates for most taxpayers while letting them rise for top earners.

Obama today invoked his victory in election campaign, saying “a clear majority of Americans” support his approach to cutting the deficit.

“This debate is not just about numbers,” Obama said today at an event aimed at promoting his plan. “It’s a set of major decisions that are going to affect millions of families all across the country.”

The president and Congress are negotiating the terms of deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, the $607 billion automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to kick in on Jan. 1. The Congressional Budget Office has said that failure to reach an agreement may push the economy into a recession next year and boost the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with 7.9 percent now.

“If we get this wrong, the economy’s going to go south,” the president said in an appearance on the White House grounds with a group of people who responded to a White House e-mail solicitation to describe how a tax increase would affect them.

Lobbying Effort

Obama is mounting a campaign-style push to pressure Congress into letting Bush-era tax cuts expire for wealthy households earning more than $250,000 a year and preserving tax breaks for families earning less than $250,000.

Obama has been lobbying corporate and Wall Street executives, owners of small businesses and allies among labor groups at White House meetings over the past month.

He met with a dozen company chief, including Honeywell International Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Cote, American Express Co. CEO Kenneth Chenault and Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, Nov. 14, a day after he met with union leaders.

He also had an unannounced meeting with financial industry executives Nov. 16. Another group of business executives is scheduled to meet with him at the White House later today after they talk with Republican leaders in the U.S. House.

Romney Talks

In his victory speech after winning a second term on Nov. 6, Obama said he looked forward to sitting down with Romney, a Republican, to discuss how they can work together. The White House said in a statement that tomorrow’s lunch will be their first opportunity to do so since the Nov. 6 election.

Obama made no mention of his lunch with Romney when talking today about negotiations with Congress. While in Washington, Romney also plans to meet with his former running mate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Both sides are jockeying for leverage in the debate.

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters today that he is “optimistic that we can continue to work together to avert this crisis sooner rather than later.”

U.S. stocks erased early losses after the Ohio Republican’s remarks. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up less than 0.1 percent as of 11:25 a.m. in New York after earlier slumping as much as 1 percent.

Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of Obama’s 2010 fiscal commission, was less optimistic today about the prospects for a deal.

“I’m really worried,” Bowles told reporters. “I believe the probability is we’re going over the cliff.”

While Bowles isn’t involved in the budget negotiations, he said he met with Obama yesterday and was was among the contingent of company leaders who met today with House Republicans.


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