The "fiscal cliff" talks are at a partisan standoff.

House Speaker John Boehner (left) and President Barack Obama (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are swapping barbed political charges. But they're carefully leaving room for further negotiations on an elusive deal to head off year-end tax increases and spending cuts.

At the White House today, Obama said Republicans should "peel off the war paint" and take the deal he's offering. Obama noted that he won re-election with a call for higher taxes on the wealthy. But he added that the nation aches for conciliation, not a contest of ideologies, after last week's mass murder at a Connecticut elementary school.

But he drew a quick retort from Boehner when the White House threatened to veto a fallback bill drafted by House Republicans that would prevent tax increases for all but million-dollar earners. The Ohio Republican said the president will bear responsibility for "the largest tax increase in history" if he makes good on that threat.

Boehner expressed confidence the Republicans' narrow so-called Plan B bill would clear the House tomorrow despite opposition from some conservative, anti-tax dissidents, but a cold reception awaits the measure in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)