President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, have spoken of compromise but appear to be taking firm stances on some issues. Obama will meet with labor representatives as well as other progressive groups Tuesday. He'll hold separate meetings with the business community Wednesday.
The effect on the markets has been widespread. Fiscal cliff worries were blamed for keeping a lid on European markets and Asian markets, which closed mostly lower.
In Greece, lawmakers passed a new austerity budget, and the country's international lenders drafted a report saying it had made progress in righting its finances. Greece is hoping the other euro countries will give it another $40 billion in bailout loans. The budget and the report are crucial steps toward that goal.
Still, the new bailout isn't a sure thing: Some of the potential lenders must seek approval from their parliaments. Greece's main stock market index closed down 3.6 percent.
Freeze was among the underwhelmed. "At this point, all the Greek news is just noise," he said. "None of these bailouts really solve the underlying problem. Now if all of a sudden Spain became incredibly solvent and its unemployment rate went to 5 percent, then you'd see" a reason to buy.
Across Europe, there were other reminders that the debt crisis is far from solved. The Banking Association of Spain, a country where hundreds of thousands of borrowers have fallen behind on their mortgages, said it would curb evictions of some struggling homeowners. In Portugal, demonstrators planned protests against a scheduled visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany helped bail out Portugal last year and insisted that the government there cut spending as a condition of getting the money, a sore point for some in Portugal.
Among U.S. stocks making big moves:
â¿¿ Leucadia National announced it would buy the investment banking firm Jefferies Group. Jefferies' chief will run the combined company. Leucadia, a holding company with investments in eclectic industries including beef processing and medical products, dropped 66 cents, or 3 percent, to $21.14. Jefferies soared $2, or 14 percent, to $16.27.