Compromise Still Eludes Senate Cliff Negotiators

I was happy to see that the Audience Network is going to be rerunning the Fox TV series 24 on weekdays. And if congressional negotiators were smart, they could learn a thing or two by watching Jack Bauer, who always saved America just in the nick of time -- usually by throwing out the rulebook and improvising a solution to the crisis.

Where is Jack when we need him?

Democrat Senate leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell have been locked in negotiations over the weekend, in an otherwise closed-down Capitol.

According to the Washington Post, they have set themselves a deadline of 15:00 local time (20:00 GMT) to reach a compromise agreement, after which they will convene caucus meetings of their members and decide whether the measure has enough support to be put to a vote.

The Senate could then vote on the measure and allow the House of Representatives enough time on Monday to consider it, said the paper.

This is the "Democratic Double Dare You" scenario where there will be an up-or-down vote in the Senate on maintaining middle class tax cuts, with Obama and the Democrats literally daring Republicans to vote against it in the House. Other tax-and-spending issues would be addressed after the new Congress is sworn in.

President Obama is scheduled to make a rare appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.

He has urged negotiators to reach a deal, even if the resulting legislation is an unhappy compromise for both sides which defers resolution of some elements under discussion.

The country "just can't afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy," he said, warning that if they fail, "every American's paycheck will get a lot smaller".

"Congress can prevent it from happening, if they act now," he said.

Some Republicans have pledged never to vote for increased taxes. There are some indications they could oppose any deal which included higher taxes.

Lest anyone think all the pressure is on Republicans, there are serious political concerns for Democrats as well:

But Reid faces his own competing pressures — from a White House that wants him to carry a deal through, moderate Democrats who face a tough 2014 reelection, and liberals who want him to hold firm against the GOP even if it means going over the cliff.

A number of Democrats — several of whom will face voters in 2014 — worry no one will be unscathed, including President Barack Obama. If taxes skyrocket and deep cuts take effect, Obama could preside over an eroding economy that could torpedo his second-term agenda as he tries to broaden his presidency to focus on issues like immigration reform and gun control. Voters, Democrats in the Senate fear, will take it out on them as well.

“I don’t blame people at home for wondering what in the heck is going on in the nation’s capital,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who is up for reelection in 2014. “It’s hard to explain. … I don’t think it looks good for either party.”