President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and their staffs will be the principal negotiators in talks to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

As the talks begin formally at the White House Friday, lawmakers and special interest groups are scrambling to figure out who else will be in the room and how to influence the outcome.

Obama will host Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) at 10:15 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room. Senior congressional aides, however, describe it as more of a photo op than a substantive bargaining session.

Informal talks are already under way, behind the scenes, between White House officials and congressional staff, according to a senior Senate aide. Obama has also called the Democratic leaders of the Senate and House to organize strategy.

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