Talks to avoid a fiscal crisis appeared to stall on Wednesday as President Barack Obama accused Republicans of digging in their heels due to a personal grudge against him, while a top Republican called the president “irrational.”

As the clock ticks toward a year-end deadline, Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, are trying to reach a deal to avert harsh tax hikes and spending cuts that could trigger a recession.

Obama said he was puzzled over what was holding up the talks and told Republicans to stop worrying about scoring “a point against the president” or forcing him into concessions “just for the heck of it.”

“It is very hard for them to say yes to me,” he told a news conference in the White House. “At some point, you know, they’ve got to take me out of it.”