President Barack Obama and congressional leaders were set to meet on Friday for the first time since November with no sign of progress in resolving their differences over the federal budget and low expectations for a "fiscal cliff" deal before Jan. 1.

Instead, members of Congress are increasingly looking at the period immediately after the Dec. 31 deadline to come up with a retroactive fix to avoid the steep tax hikes and sharp spending cuts that economists have said could plunge the country into another recession.