Taxes on the wealthy and Republican demands for budget cuts to pay for Democratic spending proposals were separating the two parties as the deadline for avoiding the "fiscal cliff" has drawn to within hours.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (C) leaves the Senate Chamber and heads to a meeting with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill ( Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke late Sunday with Vice President Joe Biden, a former Senate colleague, in hopes of settling remaining differences. That followed weekend bargaining between McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that left several issues unresolved.

Unless an agreement is reached and approved by Congress by midnight tonight, more than $500 billion in 2013 tax increases will begin to take effect and more than $100 billion will be carved from defense and domestic programs. Economists warn that the combined impact — the so-called fiscal cliff — could rekindle recession.

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