Lawmakers still at odds on last day before fiscal cliff
AFP and APWASHINGTON -- U.S. lawmakers will work on New Year's Eve for the first time in more than 40 years in a last-ditch attempt to save the United States from a fiscal calamity that will result in stiff tax hikes and drastic spending cuts.
January 1, 2013, 12:59 am TWN
U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has ordered the Senate back into session at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) Monday, the last day before the deadline known as the fiscal cliff.
Democrats and Republicans on Monday morning said signs of progress were emerging. A person familiar with the talks said Democrats offered to extend tax cuts for families making up to US$450,000 a year. U.S. President Barack Obama originally wanted the cuts to be extended only for families making up to US$250,000 a year. The person familiar with the talks requested anonymity in order to discuss the internal negotiations.
Two days of last-gasp talks produced no deal Sunday between U.S. political leaders struggling for a compromise to head off a punishing package of spending cuts and tax hikes due to come into force on Jan. 1 that could roil global markets and plunge the United States back into a punishing recession.
“There is still time left to reach an agreement, and we intend to continue negotiations,” Reid said.
But “there is still significant distance between the two sides,” he told the Senate, after huddling for nearly two hours with his Democratic caucus.
Speaking at the Capitol, Reid said Democrats were unwilling to brook talk of social security cuts.
“This morning, we have been trying to come up with some counteroffer to my friend's proposal,” Reid told the Senate. “We have been unable to do that.”
U.S. Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also warned that, despite talks through the night, negotiators were still a long way from success.
McConnell told AFP he received no response to a “good faith offer” to Senate Democrats and had spoken twice by telephone with his old friend and sparring partner Vice President Joe Biden in the hope of breaking the stalemate.