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.