Cliffhanger! US lawmakers seek last-gasp fiscal deal
By Michael Mathes ,AFPWASHINGTON -- After weeks of failed haggling, the fiscal cliffhanger is at hand as U.S. lawmakers convene Sunday in a bid to strike a year-end deal that avoids huge tax hikes and possibly spending cuts set to kick in Jan. 1.
December 31, 2012, 12:12 am TWN
With the clock ticking ever closer to the New Year's time bomb, the suddenly alarmed Senate and House were holding special sessions 36 hours before the year-end deadline for a plan that would keep America from tumbling off the so-called fiscal cliff.
The stakes in the game of holiday-interrupting brinkmanship are enormous.
Economists agree the US$500 billion in fiscal pain due to hit when the new year starts would stifle the U.S. economic recovery and send the country back into recession, spelling bad news for the global economy as well.
Aides to both sides' leaders in the Democrat-controlled Senate worked feverishly behind closed doors Saturday to fashion a deal palatable to Democrats as well as to Republicans, who control the House of Representatives.
The Senate convenes Sunday at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) while the House goes into session an hour later, with no votes expected before 2330 GMT.
Both chambers will have little time to debate and then pass a deal that has eluded the White House and Congress for weeks.
President Barack Obama, who called congressional leaders to the White House on Friday, will address the crisis once more when he gives an interview on NBC's Sunday morning talk show “Meet the Press.”
According to The Washington Post, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have set a deadline of about 3 p.m. on Sunday for reaching a deal.
At that time, the newspaper says, they plan to convene caucus meetings of their respective members to brief them on what has been achieved and determine whether their plan has enough support to put it for a vote.
If so, the Senate will hold a vote by midday Monday, giving the Republican-controlled House Representatives the rest of New Year's Eve to consider the measure, The Post said.
Amid the tense negotiations, Obama pressed lawmakers to clinch a deal, even if they must reach a compromise that lacks the significant deficit-reduction measures both sides had sought.