WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned members of his caucus Wednesday that with talks on averting the "fiscal cliff" apparently stalled, they should not get their hopes up that they'll be going home for the holidays.
"We were encouraged not to make any plans for the holidays," Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told reporters after the Republicans' weekly caucus meeting.
"He just said just don't make plans," said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), adding that the implication was that members would need to be in Washington in case a vote was taken.
King also said that they'd only be needed for a vote "if some something happens" -- a large qualification that suggested the odds of going over the cliff remain high.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) dampened everyone's spirits further, saying he plans to keep lawmakers around until a deal is done, even if it ruins people's holidays.
"We're going to stay here right up until Christmas Eve, throughout the time and period before the New Year, because we want to make sure that we resolve this in an acceptable way for the American people," Cantor said.
The grim assessments come a day after Boehner and President Barack Obama exchanged phone calls and new offers to head off the combination of across-the-board tax hikes and mandatory spending cuts that kick in early next year.
Obama lowered the amount of new revenue he wanted to collect from $1.6 trillion to $1.4 trillion. Republicans refused to detail what their new offer included, but one aide said that Obama is very aware of the "menu" of cuts that the GOP would support.
Several GOP members on Wednesday pointed to previous budgets that the House has passed as providing that menu, but none specified which items they would require in a fiscal cliff deal.
Boehner declined to elaborate on his side of the talks in the news conference after the House Republicans' meeting, but he suggested that the tone had darkened over the course of Tuesday's talks. He declined to describe them as "tense," favoring the term "deliberate."
"The president and I had a pretty frank conversation about just how far apart we are," Boehner said.
And he trashed Obama's latest offer for not doing enough on spending cuts.
"It's mainly tax hikes," Boehner said. "His plan does not begin to solve our debt crisis. It actually increases spending."
The speaker and the president have been in closer touch with each other as time runs short to reach a deal, meeting privately on Sunday.
Boehner said Obama's latest fiscal cliff proposal can't pass the House or the Senate, but insisted talks would continue.
"I remain the most optimistic person in this town," Boehner added, "but we've got some serious differences."
Later on Wednesday, GOP aides admitted that part of their fiscal cliff offer was a proposal to make permanent the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of earners -- the very thing Obama said he would not do and campaigned against in his reelection.