By Sunday evening, Senate leaders form both parties were supposed to have reached an agreement on terms to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts. The Democrat-led Senate was to have voted on the deal by Monday, and the Republican-led House was to have followed, in order to beat the cliff's December 31 deadline.
However, numerous reports indicate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are nowhere near agreement.
Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post reports that retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who caucuses with the Democrats, emerged from a meeting with his colleagues and offered this assessment: "I think the parties are much farther apart than I hoped they’d be by now, and that the country thought they’d be when negotiations started on Friday.”
Democrats have made tax hikes (i.e. the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts) on households earning more than $250,000 a non-negotiable demand. Republicans have opposed raising tax rates for any households at all.
Sen. Reid was expected to make a new offer this evening, but Robert Costa of National Review reports that he has not done so, and that some Senators are making dinner plans rather than staying in their Capitol Hill offices. He also reports widespread pessimism: "half" of Republican Senators now expect to go over the "fiscal cliff."
In the absence of a deal, President Barack Obama has demanded that both houses of Congress vote on a simple proposal to extend the Bush tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000, without any decreases in spending attached to the proposal. Republicans might suffer politically for opposing such a bill, but are unlikely to approve proposals that do not involve spending cuts.
Photo credit: NBC/Trae Patton