Durbin: Agreement More Likely Tomorrow, If It Happens
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) predicted that working through the last-minute sticky issues would put a fiscal cliff deal past the midnight deadline.
"I can tell you that the original contours that we talked about really present a problem in reaching an agreement. But, I understand the conversation is going to continue, as it should, between the leaders in the Senate on both sides and the president," Durbin told CNN.
"I understand the Republican senate caucus backed off of the including Social Security on this conversation. That is a positive step. I hope now that we can find other ways to find some common ground. We got to solve this problem."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reached out to Vice President Joe Biden to negotiate when talks with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were going nowhere. There has reportedly been some progress on the tax cuts, but not yet on spending cuts.
"I think President Obama is right, that those making less than $250,000 should be protected. The Republicans, of course, want to raise that level so there it will be some higher income categories that receive the same protection from tax increases," Durbin said. "As part of a package, overall package, I'm willing to sit down and talk about that personally, only one element. The whole question mark then is what's fair, what will reduce the deficit, what's something we can live with as a nation?"
Still, Durbin wouldn't quote a tax threshold that he could live with. Dems reportedly sent a $450,000 offer for family tax rates to the GOP.
"It will be difficult to put it together this evening -- even if we reached an agreement it is more likely to come tomorrow, if we reach an agreement. I think we need to keep working at it; the American people know what's at stake here," he said.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told CNN there's difficultly in going for the compromise rate being floated.
"I could support that but on the other hand, we want to make sure as well not raising taxes on small businesses and there are some audits in the tax code currently between 250,000 and 400,000 that would disproportionately affect those people as opposed to those who make more than 400,000," she said. "They would end up -- paying more in taxes than those earning over 400,000."
Snowe tied the fiscal cliff to her frustration with the upper chamber that led her to decide to retire.
"On both parties, both branches of government. We are not engaged, wasted time, had recess upon recess, didn't have full workweeks. I mean, the list goes on," she said. "...It is a sad truth in terms of where we stand today in terms of our inability to get together and even the most routine let alone the magnitude of the issues that we are attempting to address today and will have to address tomorrow."