Here's a look at some of the leaders who will influence whether the country can avoid falling off the fiscal cliff:
President Obama: He is prepared to veto legislation to block the fiscal cliff unless Republicans allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for those making more than $250,000 a year, the White House says. Because he won re-election, he may be able to dictate the terms of a bipartisan debt-reduction deal.
Dave Cote, Honeywell chief executive: He has been one of the more vocal corporate chieftains on fiscal cliff issues. He is part of the nonpartisan Fix the Debt campaign, which is pushing not just to avoid the fiscal cliff, but to find a major deficit-reduction plan that includes tax increases and spending cuts.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: He and other Republican leaders want to extend Bush-era tax cuts for at least another year. In October, he said, "We won't have economic growth if we raise taxes on small businesses, the engine of private-sector job creation in our country." He has referred to Obama's veto threat as a "Thelma and Louise" strategy.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: He will play a critical role as the Obama administration seeks to negotiate a deal with Republicans. He has repeated Obama's demand for higher taxes on the wealthy in meetings with Boehner and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., according to aides in both parties.
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.: The House Ways and Means Committee chairman is likely to be part of any further talks.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.: The fourth-ranking Democrat in the Senate has vowed to go over the fiscal cliff without an agreement on taxes. In July, she said she would rather push the debt debate into next year than reach a deal "that throws middle-class families under the bus."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.: Close to Tea Party Republicans, Cantor is more skeptical of cooperation with the White House on taxes.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: He wants to raise taxes on high-income earners. He said he doesn't believe the country will go over the fiscal cliff, but he wants a long-term solution to bring down the deficit, not a short-term deal.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Senate Finance Committee chairman: He has met with economic leaders including Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke as he works on a plan to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: Like Boehner, McConnell wants to see Bush-era tax cuts extended.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.: The House Budget Committee chairman and former vice-presidential candidate could influence GOP strategy. He supports an overhaul of entitlements.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: The former House speaker is likely to be part of negotiations. She said that "the reason we have a problem here is because our Republican colleagues have refused to have one red cent from the wealthiest people in our country contribute to resolving this fiscal crisis, this budget crisis, not one red cent."
Carlson quickly chose the 15-year chief financial officer to replace the Best Buy-bound Hubert Joly.