Obama and Romney meet for private White House lunch

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the Oval Office 29 November 2012

US President Barack Obama has met defeated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for a private lunch at the White House.

The two men discussed "America's leadership in the world" and how to preserve it, the White House said.

The former Massachusetts governor left after just over an hour and the two said they would stay in touch.

Meanwhile, negotiations over a looming "fiscal cliff" seemed to falter in Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner said no major progress had been made on a deal to avert the looming package of tax rises and spending cuts.

'No job offer'

Mr Obama and Mr Romney dined on white turkey chili and south-western grilled chicken salad during Thursday's lunch meeting.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a news briefing: "Governor Romney congratulated the president for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years.

"The focus of their discussion was on America's leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future.

Start Quote

We're still waiting for a serious offer from Republicans”

End Quote Harry Reid Senate Majority Leader

"They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future."

Mr Obama is also said to have noted that Mr Romney's "skills-set" could help improve the workings of the federal government.

But there was no job offer for Mr Romney in the works, Mr Carney said.

Mr Romney has spent the past three weeks mainly at his family's California home, making no scheduled public appearances, although he was photographed on a family trip to Disneyland.

On election night, 6 November, Mr Obama pledged to meet the former Massachusetts governor for talks on how to "move this country forward".

The pair sparred in a bitter campaign and are said to have little rapport.

On Thursday Mr Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, met Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to discuss the fiscal cliff, a raft of tax rises and spending cuts due to take effect on 1 January.

The White House reportedly asked for $1.6 trillion (£1 trillion) in higher taxes over a decade, together with money to help the unemployed and struggling homeowners.

In exchange, President Obama would back savings of as much as $400bn from Medicare and other benefit programmes over 10 years, unnamed officials told AP news agency.

'Step backward'

The offer did not impress Mr Boehner.

He said afterwards: "Unfortunately, many Democrats continue to rule out sensible spending cuts that must be part of any significant agreement that will reduce our deficit."

What is the fiscal cliff?

  • Under a deal reached last year between President Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress, existing stimulus measures - mostly tax cuts - will expire on 1 January 2013
  • Cuts to defence, education and other government spending will then automatically come into force - the "fiscal cliff" - unless Congress acts
  • The economy does not have the momentum to absorb the shock from going over the fiscal cliff without going into recession

Congressional Democrats countered that Republicans had not identified specific spending cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said: "We're still waiting for a serious offer from Republicans."

Some Republicans have said they would consider increased tax revenue as part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

But the White House believes that simply ending tax deductions would not address the yawning budget deficit.

The fiscal cliff, which would suck about $600bn (£347bn) out of the economy, could tip the US back into recession, analysts warn.

The measures were partly put in place within a 2011 deal to curb the yawning US budget deficit, but also include the expiration of George W Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans.

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