President Barack Obama is narrowing a "fiscal cliff" negotiating gap with House Speaker John Boehner by backing off what had once been ironclad positions.

President Barack Obama (Getty Images)

Obama now wants to raise the top tax rate on those earning over $400,000 per year, abandoning his insistence on increasing top rates on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000. After seeking permanent borrowing authority, he is now seeking a debt ceiling that can hold for two years.

And while protecting the middle class from higher tax rates, other aspects of his proposal would require middle-income taxpayers to pay more.

The concessions signal a new stage in the negotiations, where both sides seem willing to lock in on a substantial agreement rather than just putting off a fiscal day of reckoning.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)