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President Barack Obama waves to reporters as he steps off the Marine One helicopter at the White House in Washington, Thursday as he returns early from vacation for meetings on the fiscal cliff. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama returned to the White House on Thursday from a vacation shortened by government gridlock while Democrats and Republicans snarled across a partisan divide and showed no sign of compromise to avoid year-end tax increases and spending cuts.

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