WASHINGTON -- Five weeks after President Barack Obama won re-election and gained more leverage to make GOP conservatives bend on taxes, the new balance of power is proving vexing for both sides.
Republicans still aren't budging on Obama's demands for higher tax rates on upper bracket earners, despite the president's convincing election victory and opinion polls showing support for the idea.
Democrats in turn are now resisting steps, such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare, that they were willing to consider just a year and a half ago, when Obama's chief Republican adversary, House Speaker John Boehner, was in a better tactical position.
With less than three weeks before the government could careen off a "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and sweeping spending cuts, Boehner, R-Ohio, said "serious differences" remain between him and Obama after an exchange of offers and a pair of conversations this week.
Neither side has given much ground, and Boehner's exchange of proposals with Obama seemed to generate hard feelings more than progress. The White House has slightly reduced its demands on taxes - from $1.6 trillion over a decade to $1.4 trillion - but isn't yielding on demands that rates rise for wealthier earners.
Boehner responded with an offer very much like one he gave the White House more than a week ago that proposed $800 billion in new revenue, half of Obama's demand. Boehner is also pressing for an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a stingier cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the two men did not have any follow-up talks Wednesday.
"There were some offers that were exchanged back and forth (Tuesday), and the president and I had a pretty frank conversation about just how far apart we are," Boehner said after his meeting with fellow Republican lawmakers.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke weighed in as well. He said, "Clearly, the fiscal cliff is having effects on the economy," the uncertainty affecting consumer and business confidence and leading businesses to cut back on investment.
And on Thursday, Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican and leading conservative figure, predicted that Obama would prevail in the fight over taxes.
A leading conservative who's resigning from the Senate is predicting that President Barack Obama will win the battle over raising taxes.
"He's going to get his wish. I believe we're going to be raising taxes, and not just on the top earners," DeMint, who is leaving the Senate to become president of the Heritage Institution think tank, said in an appearance on "CBS This Morning."
DeMint said a tax increase would amount to a "political trophy" for Obama but said it would be bad for the country.