(Photo: REUTERS/Mary Calvert)
With the Monday at midnight deadline for the "fiscal cliff" fast approaching, political leaders still had not reached a compromise by Sunday night to avoid the recession that economists say will likely come with the combined tax increases and government spending cuts. With the House and Senate both in session on Sunday, members of Congress disagreed on whether there would be an agreement.
Much like the Budget Control Act of 2011, which is partly responsible for the fiscal cliff, Vice President Joe Biden is now leading efforts on behalf of the White House to reach an agreement. He met off and on with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) throughout much of the day.
Sounding optimistic on ABC's "This Week," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said it would not be unusual to have an agreement at the last minute: "I've been a legislator for 37 years and I've watched how these things work. On these big, big agreements they almost always happen at the last minute."
On the other hand, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said, in an interview on CBS, that he does not expect an agreement to be reached. Coburn has been part of the "gang of seven" that has tried since last year to forge a deficit reduction compromise.
When asked what going over the fiscal cliff would mean for Americans, Coburn replied, "The American people get to experience what the real cost of their government is, which is one of our problems."
McConnell reportedly reached out to Biden on Saturday night to make an offer. Biden was a senator for three decades before becoming vice president and the two men have a long standing relationship. McConnell offered a proposal to Biden. Senate Democrats met for several hours Sunday to debate what to do next. They rejected the Republican proposal but failed to agree upon a counter-proposal.
Even though Congress was no longer in session by Sunday evening, leaders assured reporters that talks would continue throughout the evening to try and reach an agreement. Biden and McConnell appear to now be the center of those negotiations.
Chad Pergram, reporter for Fox News, tweeted that when he asked Reid if there was progress on the talks, Reid replied, "talk to Joe Biden and McConnell."
On Sunday morning, President Barack Obama was interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press." He said it was all the Republicans' fault that no agreement has been reached because they would not go along with his proposals.
He also said he would agree to change the cost-of-living allowance for Social Security. After that interview, Republicans proposed making that reform part of an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, but congressional Democrats rejected that idea.
If any agreement is reached, it appears that it will be a much smaller agreement than the "grand bargain" that was being negotiated between Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner. The grand bargain would increase revenue through tax reform and decrease the long-term growth in spending through entitlement reform.
The smaller agreement currently under discussion appears to be aimed at giving Congress and Obama more time to work on the grand bargain.
The Senate ended its day's business around 6 p.m. Sunday night without any votes on the fiscal cliff. It will reconvene Monday at 11 a.m.