In another sign of deteriorating relations between the House Republican leadership and the White House, a Democratic official close to the talks said Speaker John Boehner's latest offer to avoid the "fiscal cliff" included a demand for a permanent extension of expiring tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers.

If true, that would represent a huge insult to President Obama, whose central goal is the expiration of the tax cuts for the wealthy adopted during the George W. Bush administration.

Republicans denied the charge, saying their offer on taxes was largely unchanged from last week, when they proposed extending the Bush tax cuts for one year to give lawmakers time to overhaul the tax code. Though the GOP does not want to raise rates on the wealthy, they have offered to extract $800 billion from those taxpayers over the next decade by limiting their deductions and other tax breaks.

"As the speaker has said repeatedly, the point is a framework for tax reform, which by definition makes this argument [over extension of the Bush cuts] entirely moot," said a senior GOP aide.

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