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Senators, president scrambling wildly to avoid dreaded 'fiscal cliff'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 30th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The clock is ticking towards Tuesday, the first day of the New Year of 2013 - and with it, U.S. President Barack Obama has sternly warned lawmaker that if hard decisions are not made before then, the nation will go over the dreaded "fiscal cliff," leading to the nation's largest ever

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The president spoke on news program as congressional negotiators burrowed into their offices to stop the U.S. economy from hitting a major crisis.

The biggest tax increases ever to hit the American public could take only a day to implement. Some lower taxes are scheduled to expire on the last day of the year.

Obama told reporters that that his offers to Republicans "have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me," citing a proposal he made to House Speaker John Boehner to reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in the meantime on another news program that chances for a small "fiscal cliff" deal in the next 48 hours were "exceedingly good" and that Obama had "won." However, Democrats and Republicans still remained at loggerheads on Sunday.

"There are still serious differences between the two sides," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said.

Democrats said Republicans were proposing to slow future cost of living increases for Social Security recipients, which Republicans have declined to confirm.

Both Democrats and Senate Republicans worked on Saturday on a possible compromise that would set aside $600 billion in tax increases and across-the-board government spending cuts that are set to kick in next week.

The approximately $500 billion value of the revenue increases would represent a historic hike when taken together, a one-two punch that could send the U.S. economy back into recession.

One congressional aide close to the talks said that most of what was being discussed late on Saturday would provide temporary patches to the "fiscal cliff" dilemma.

"They continue to go round and round," the aide said of the negotiations, with ideas constantly in flux.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source said negotiators were discussing the possibility of putting off for a few months the $109 billion in automatic spending cuts due to start this week on Wednesday.

These cuts would be divided equally between military and non-military programs. There are widespread concerns that they could cause severe disruptions inside federal agencies if allowed to occur.

Talk of a temporary delay earlier this week in the spending cuts was met with derision by some congressional aides.

The extension of the low-income tax rates first put in place under Republican former President George W. Bush would also be on a temporary basis, probably another year, the aide said.

No deal had been reached on the most difficult question: Democrats' demand that upper-income earners, i.e. having tax rates go up for households making more than $250,000 a year.

Republicans have long opposed this plan, but have recently signaled a willingness to go along with a higher threshold. A $400,000 figure has been suggested over the past several days.

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