U.S. House sets Sunday session as 'fiscal cliff' deadline nears

WASHINGTON Fri Dec 28, 2012 2:26am IST

Actors dressed as (L-R) Joseph and the Three Wise Men, part of a live-human nativity scene, stroll past the U.S. Capitol Building after demonstrating outside the nearby Supreme Court in Washington, December 5, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Actors dressed as (L-R) Joseph and the Three Wise Men, part of a live-human nativity scene, stroll past the U.S. Capitol Building after demonstrating outside the nearby Supreme Court in Washington, December 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives will return to Washington on Sunday night, just over a day before U.S. income tax rates are set to spike higher, in a last-ditch chance to avert the year-end "fiscal cliff."

Senior Republican aides confirmed that House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday told members to be back in Washington in time for a 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT) legislative session on Sunday.

The House may then stay in session until January 2, the final day of the current Congress, according to a Twitter message from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

That is the day that another component of the "fiscal cliff" - $109 billion in automatic spending cuts to military and domestic programs - is set to start.

The House went on recess a week ago amid a deadlock over how to resolve ways to avoid the $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that could throw the U.S. economy back into recession.

Some media outlets reported that Obama would meet with congressional leaders on Friday, but several congressional aides said no such meeting had yet been arranged.

If a meeting occurs, Obama is not expected to offer a new "fiscal cliff" solution and he is instead likely to stick to the outline he set out a week ago for a stop-gap fix, according to a senior Democratic aide.

That would include legislation to shield most Americans from any income tax increase starting on January 1, except for those households with net incomes above $250,000 a year. Obama also wants an extension of expiring benefits for the long-term unemployed.

So far, the Republicans who control the House have refused to go along with any measure that would raise income taxes on anyone.

Meanwhile, House Republican leaders held an approximately 35-minute telephone conference call with rank-and-file members on Thursday, according to one Republican aide.

"There were a lot of different members who spoke on the call. All had questions. All had comments," the aide said, refusing to elaborate.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan and David Lawder; Editing by Will Dunham)

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