Kyl: 'Recipe' for tax compromise is likely to include unemployment benefits

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Sunday he expected the "recipe" for a tax-cut compromise to included extensions of unemployment benefits and Bush-era tax rates for all income brackets.

Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation" with his Democratic counterpart, Dick DurbinDick DurbinDem senator: GOP's healthcare approach will 'devastate Medicaid' Sunday shows preview: Senate healthcare debate heats up Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity MORE (D-Ill.), Kyl accused leaders of "wasting a week" of going through political maneuvers such as the Saturday session called by Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWarren cautions Dems against infighting Dems see surge of new candidates Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight MORE (D-Nev.).

A proposal by Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusLawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone GOP: FBI firing won't slow agenda White House tax-reform push is ‘game changer,’ says ex-chairman MORE (D-Mont.) to extend the cuts only for individuals with incomes of up to $200,000 and families with incomes of up to $250,000 failed by a vote of 53-36. A proposal by Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerTrump: Obama not leading the resistance Schumer jams to Diana Ross at New York party Warren cautions Dems against infighting MORE (D-N.Y.) to extend cuts permanently for incomes of up to $1 million failed 53-37.

Schumer's bill included provisions such as a one-year extension of unemployment benefits and cuts in capital gains, estate and dividend taxes.

"I can tell you, without unemployment benefits being extended, personally, this is a non-starter," Durbin said, calling it "unconscionable" that some families would see their checks run out before Christmas.

Despite outstanding disagreements over which income brackets should get extensions and for how long, "In theory, I think an agreement could be reached in the near future," Kyl said.

Durbin, who pointed out that he would note vote for a permanent extension of cuts in the disputed income brackets, agreed that the Senate was "moving in that direction" of an agreement, but heavily stressed Democratic talking points of not extending the tax cuts to the wealthiest.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet The Press" to host David Gregory, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGOP senator defends funding Planned Parenthood GOP senator on healthcare bill: 'Right now I am undecided' Manchin: Senate can do 'an awful lot' to improve healthcare bill MORE (R-Ky.) said he believed a deal will be reached, but Sen. John KerryJohn KerryFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Budowsky: Dems madder than hell Tillerson: 'My view didn’t change' on Paris climate agreement MORE (D-Mass.) blasted Republicans for pandering to the rich to the exclusion of the country's middle class. Both interviews had tense moments — pressed by Gregory on a statement made Saturday by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that the nine-year-old tax cuts have failed to stimulate the economy, McConnell bristled.

"This argument is over," he told Gregory. "You and I can continue to engage in it, but it's over. The Senate voted yesterday. Every Republican and five Democrats said, 'We're not raising taxes on anybody in the middle of a recession.' "

Kyl stressed the GOP argument that "in an economic downturn it's not a good idea" to raise anyone's tax rates.

The majority whip countered that the Republican position was to continue Bush economic policies that "utterly failed" and led the country into recession. "We are laser-focused on this jobs issue," Durbin said.

"Those tax rates ... did not create the problem that we have today," Kyl countered. "Without the taxes being where they are, the situation would have been much worse."

Reports have indicated that a deal is in the works between the White House and congressional Republicans to extend the cuts for two years, and to extend unemployment benefits for one year, among other provisions. McConnell repeatedly refused to endorse the idea, however.

"It would be absolutely irresponsible to sit here on a Sunday talk show and blow the talks by starting to endorse and rule out things," he said. "What I'm saying is, 'This is the road map. We need to sit down with the president, and see what we can do together.' ... I'm prepared to sit down with the president and see what we can do on a bipartisan basis."

Speaking minutes later, Kerry said there remains "an enormous divide" between Democrats and Republicans over the appropriateness of the cuts.

"Republicans are fighting to keep in place a policy that has failed over the last eight years," Kerry said. "It has failed. We have a net loss of jobs. And what we've seen is a Republican party that is absolutely prepared to deny unemployment insurance to people who have been laid off, who can't pay their bills and want to put food on the table for their families. They've said, 'No, we're willing to hold that hostage so we can give the wealthiest people in the country a bonus tax cut."

Kerry reminded Gregory that the Democratic proposal for the tax cuts would give all Americans a tax cut, even the most wealthy, up to $250,000 of their income. He called the GOP insistence on tax breaks for higher-income earners a "bankrupt, fundamentally reckless" position.

"It's the least effective way of creating jobs and putting impact into the economy," Kerry said. "We want to extend the tax cuts for every single American, but only up to a level that makes sense for our economy. You talk about uncertainty for our economy — how much uncertainty is there when you add $800 billion to the deficit?"

Kerry also said economic studies have shown that tax cuts for wealthy Americans only returns about 30 cents per dollar, compared to $1.60 that is returned into the economy for every $1 spent on unemployment insurance.

"There are multiplier effects that are a reality of our economic laws," Kerry said. "Republicans are ignoring them, in order just to feed the upper end. And they're willing to hold unemployment insurance hostage to that."

Kerry then slammed McConnell and other GOP leaders for a perceived refusal to compromise as he said Democrats have been willing to do.

"You just had the Republican leader sitting here, and all he talked about was a need for the president to come to them. All he talked about was doing things that made them comfortable. That's not how you compromise. They need to have a little discomfort, just like we have a little discomfort."

Durbin said the looming holiday break would motivate Congress into hammering out an agreement on the tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year.

"It's almost Christmas Eve," Kyl said. "I don't think anyone thinks we can leave this thing hanging."

—This story was updated at 12:20 p.m.