President Obama will strive to retain the political upper hand in negotiations over deficit reduction when he returns to Washington Thursday morning.

Obama had been in Hawaii with his family since Saturday but is scheduled to arrive back at the White House just before noon as the nation approaches the year-end fiscal cliff.

There is little sign, at least in public, that Republican leaders in Congress are in meaningful communication with the upper reaches of the administration. A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) acknowledged that key GOP figures were in phone contact with each other over the issue, but described the conversations as “routine.”

Administration sources say that most of their focus for the moment is on staff-level discussions with Senate Democrats. Chances of a plan emerging from the House of Representatives withered when Boehner lacked the political strength to bring his “Plan B” proposal to a vote late last week.

Given the apparent inactivity, Obama is open to the accusation that his return from Hawaii is a matter of optics rather than substance.

Read More at The Hill . By Niall Stanage.

Photo Credit: Barack Obama (Creative Commons)

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