Schumer: Better than even odds Congress reaches fiscal deal

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested that odds are better than even that legislators will come to a last-minute agreement to prevent "fiscal cliff" spending cuts and tax rate increases.

Schumer, speaking Sunday on ABC's "This Week," said that while legislators have not yet announced a compromise, a deal could still come just before the year-end deadline. 

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"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," Schumer said. "Neither side likes to give up its position.  They eyeball each other until the very end.  But then, each side, realizing that the alternative is worse, comes to an agreement.  So while an agreement is hardly a certainty, I certainly wouldn't rule it out at this last minute.

Schumer said the odds seemed "a little higher" than 50-50. 

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), also a guest Sunday on This Week, said he didn't disagree with Schumer's assessment.

"I also would say that the way you opened the program does not under- or overstate the consequences," Kyl said. "If we are not able to reach an agreement, it will be dire.  And that's from everybody, from the Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, as you know, to the Fed chairman, probably at least another million jobs lost, an unemployment rate over 9 percent, and putting us back into recession.  So responsible people on both sides of the aisle do need to try to come together, and there is a significant effort underway right now."

Schumer and Kyl's comments come as Senate leaders continued negotiations this weekend on a deal to avoid the tax rate increases and spending cuts taking effect in January. Reports suggested that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were focusing on a plan to prevent rising taxes on most families.

Schumer said that one reason for optimism is that both Democrats and Republicans want to extend the Bush-era tax rates for income up to $250,000 a year. Republicans, though want to raise the rates for income-earners above that cut-off, while President Obama and Democrats insist that the wealthy pay more in taxes.

"Nobody wants to raise taxes on people below $250,000," Schumer said. "And that will be the impetus and why both of us have some degree of optimism that we can avoid this fiscal cliff in the next 24 hours."


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