(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and Mitt Romney met face to face Thursday for the first time since the election, breaking bread at the White House as talks over the looming "fiscal cliff" appeared to be faltering on Capitol Hill.
The lunch between former rivals, served in an elegant private dining room in the West Wing, lasted just over an hour, with Romney seen coming and going from a side entrance in a black SUV. The former GOP nominee arrived without fanfare and sans entourage. He opened his own car door both times.
"I haven't looked at the menu, but I bet it was and is quite tasty," White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the meal, "because [the chefs] know how to prepare very fine meals."
Administration officials, who promised a readout of the meeting, have said there was no formal agenda or a "specific ask" or assignment for Romney. The men planned to smooth things over after a bruising campaign, away from the glare of cameras and nosy reporters.
Governor Romney "presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with, and so it'd be interesting to talk to him about something like that," Obama said at a news conference on Nov. 14. "There may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle-class families that I want to hear."
Obama also said he is also interested in identifying "some ways that we can potentially work together."
Romney, who has kept a relatively low profile since losing the election on Nov. 6, has not publicly addressed Obama's post-election overtures or the prospect of working together. Both men have little personal history and had a chilly relationship during the campaign.
Senior Romney campaign strategist Eric Fehrnstrom called Obama's lunch invitation "gracious" and said that Romney was "glad to accept." The governor also met earlier Thursday in Washington with former running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
The Obama-Romney detente comes as talks between the White House and congressional Republicans to prevent the economy from going over the "fiscal cliff" of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases set for Jan. 1 appeared to hit a snag.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the lead White House negotiator in the talks, and White House legislative chief Rob Nabors held a flurry of meetings Thursday with congressional leaders of both parties in the House and Senate.
But following sessions, top Republicans poured cold water on what had been budding optimism of progress toward a deal.
Obama and Boehner spoke by phone Wednesday night, sources told ABC News, their second conversation in four days. Boehner described it as "direct and straightforward," but suggested "disappointment" with Obama's reticence to waver on hiking tax rates on the wealthy.
Democrats insist any debt and deficit reduction deal must include income tax increases on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and families earning more than $250,000 a year -- a major sticking point for Republicans who stand opposed.
GOP leaders say they are open to increasing tax revenues through elimination of some deductions and loopholes but only in tandem with deep spending cuts which they claim the White House has not specified.
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