Report: Progress on Fiscal Cliff Talks
Image Credit: Flickr (McConnell Center)

Report: Progress on Fiscal Cliff Talks

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Major progress has been made in discussions between American lawmakers aimed at averting the so-called fiscal cliff in the United States, Politico reports.

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden engaged in furious overnight negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff and made major progress toward a year-end tax deal, giving sudden hope to high-stakes talks that had been on the brink of collapse,” Politico said citing unnamed sources that were familiar with the discussions.

The new deal under consideration would raise the tax rate on families that earn over $450,000 annually as well as individuals whose yearly income tops $400,000. The White House has been pushing for a tax rate increase on all families earning more than $250,000 a year, a proposal which Republicans in Congress have fiercely opposed.

Failure to conclude a deal would trigger the so-called fiscal cliff, a sizeable increase in the taxes paid by nearly all Americans as well as large, across-the-board spending cuts for the federal government.

Last week Sen. McConnell undertook extensive negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to reach a deal before the end of the year. These talks fell through Sunday afternoon when Sen. Reid pulled out of the talks. This prompted Sen. McConnell to reach out to Biden — who had a 36-year career in the Senate — directly in a final attempt at averting the fiscal cliff. The Biden-McConnell duo has successfully broken legislative gridlock in the past during crucial moments.

Still, Politico’s sources stressed caution as key obstacles to reaching a deal remain, including securing Sen. Harry Reid and Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner’s support for whatever proposal emerges from the Biden-McConnell talks. Boehner, in particular, has been unable to get the necessary buy-in from enough House Republicans to pass previously GOP-supported measures to avert a fiscal cliff.

It's therefore somewhat encouraging that House majority whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), has reportedly issued a statement to his caucus asking members "to remain close to the Capitol as additional legislation and votes are possible pending action from the Senate.” 

Zachary Keck is assistant editor of The Diplomat. He is on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

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