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Fiscal Cliff Wrangling Already Falls Short in the 'Compromise' Department

"I would say, also, that the president has made clear that he will not sign a bill that extends the Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $250,000. He's made that clear. I've made that clear. Others have made it clear, and that is a firm position," Carney said. "…But the president has made clear, also, that he understands that compromise has to be part of this."

Yet even prominent members of the president's own party have encouraged some give-and-take on the issue.

Sen.-elect Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who won't have to answer to Reid until the 113th Congress begins in January, is one of those saying the cutoff point for tax hikes should be $500,000, double the level sought by Obama.

"There isn't anything sort of theological about the $500,000 number. It's just a compromise," Kaine said Friday on PBS. "The Democrats' position has been tax cuts to expire over $250,000. The Republicans' position has been make all the tax cuts permanent."

"If that compromise were accepted, it would raise $500 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, which would take the potential trillion-dollar sequester and cut it in half," he added.

Most Democrats were eager to push the party line, though: Compromise, in fiscal-cliff-speak, means no agreement without tax hikes on incomes above $250,000.

Some just tried to push the hardline message in a nicer-sounding way.

"It's important to understand that the president has proposed that everybody get continued tax relief, existing tax rates on the first $250,000 of family income," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, said today on MSNBC. "So he says let's extend that for everybody right now, but he believes we should ask higher income individuals to pay a little bit more."

Even while pledging to put revenue on the table, though, Republicans weren't buying the Dems' version of compromise on the tax hikes.

"Remember two years ago, when the Democrats controlled all? What did the president say? President Obama, who had Nancy Pelosi as speaker then, and Reid, said don't raise the rates in a down economy, it hurts it," Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said today on CNN, reminding viewers of the last extension of the Bush tax cuts.

"I think what we can do in three weeks is set up where we reform some of the government spending, we bring more revenue in. That's what Republicans are putting on the table, because the president asked for it," he said. "If the president would now say that he wanted, what, 2-1/2 cuts for every $1, show where those cuts are. And then set a framework so you have overall tax reform next year, where you -- the committees can work on it."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) questioned whether even giving in on additional revenue would make a difference in the country's greater fiscal crisis -- and insisted that any extra revenue negotiated be used to reduce the deficit.

"What I'm concerned about is where this money would be going. They say it's for deficit reduction, but the president's budget that he submitted to us in January would increase spending another $1.4 trillion, whereas he's proposing now, I think, $1.6 trillion in new taxes," Sessions said today on Fox.

"I have objected to this idea that we're going to have some secret negotiations going on right now, which I, and 90-plus percent of our members of Congress are not a part of, and it's going to be plopped down right before Christmas Day? And we're going to be demanded to vote for it?"