Fiscal 'cliff' deal proving elusive

A Capitol Hill deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" is proving elusive as a deadline to avert tax hikes on virtually every American worker and block sweeping spending cuts grows perilously near.

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2012 file photo, fog obscures the Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. Big tax increases will hit millions of families and businesses a lot sooner than many realize if Congress and the White House don't agree on a plan to avoid the year-end fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and government spending cuts. In fact, they already have. More than 70 tax breaks enjoyed by individuals and businesses already expired at the beginning of this year. If Congress doesn't extend them, a typical middle class family could get a $4,000 tax hike when they file their 2012 returns next spring, according to a private analysis. At the same time, businesses could lose dozens of tax breaks they have enjoyed for years. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Capitol Hill deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" is proving elusive as a deadline to avert tax hikes on virtually every American worker and block sweeping spending cuts grows perilously near.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell remain at odds on such key issues as the income threshold for higher tax rates and how to deal with inheritance taxes.

McConnell complained that Reid had yet to respond to a GOP offer made Saturday evening and reached out to Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime friend, in hopes of breaking the impasse. Biden has assumed the lead role for Democrats, and a McConnell spokesman says the Kentucky Republican and the vice president are expected to negotiate by telephone into the night.

Rank-and-file lawmakers left the Capitol Sunday night with hopes that their leaders would give them something to vote on when they returned Monday morning.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked Vice President Joe Biden to become involved in a last-minute effort to avert tax increases on virtually every worker.

Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid acknowledged McConnell had made an offer last night but said "at this point we are unable to make a counter-offer."

The public exchange between the top negotiators on averting the so-called fiscal cliff injected a note of pessimism little more than 24 hours before taxes are set to go up.

Democrats said the Republican proposal called for changing the formula for calculating Social Security benefits increases.

McConnell said there is no single issue blocking an agreement but that "the sticking point appears to be a willingness, an interest, or courage to close the deal."


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