By Erik Wasson
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday said "fiscal cliff" talks are at an “impasse” and only President Obama can break the logjam.
“The only balanced approach is one that includes real and lasting reforms. So Republicans have stepped out of our comfort zone. We’ve been clear about what we’ll do and what we won’t. And yet we remain at an impasse,” he said.
“It’s time for the president to present a plan that rises above these reckless and radical voices on the hard left, that goes beyond the talking points of the campaign trail, and that has a realistic chance of passing the Congress,” he added.
Some $600 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts will take effect in January unless Congress acts, threatening a new recession.
Following the election, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that Republicans are open to tax revenue increases as part of a deficit deal but will oppose allowing income tax rates to rise.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used his first floor address after Thanksgiving on Monday to urge the House GOP to pass a bill just extending current tax rates for the middle class. The Senate has passed the bill and the White House on Monday issued a report warning the the looming middle class tax increases could ruin the holiday shopping season.
Reid said that "as we continue to negotiate a responsible path forward, I remind everyone within the sound of my voice of one fact: this Congress is already one vote away from avoiding the fiscal cliff for middle class families and small businesses."
On. Nov. 16, congressional leaders met with Obama and announced the start of staff discussions, prompting some optimism that the sides would come together on a deal.
Plans were hatched to have staff deliver concrete proposals this week, but that timeline appears to already have slipped.
McConnell laid the blame for the slow-going discussion on liberal Democrats who are dragging their feet on reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
“So we’ll continue to wait on the president, and hope that he has what it takes to bring people together to forge a compromise. If he does, we’ll get there. If he doesn’t, we won’t. It’s that simple,” McConnell said.
Obama has insisted on higher tax rates for the wealthy as part of a deal, but has also resisted the sweeping Medicare cuts favored by the GOP. The GOP, meanwhile, has not specified which tax breaks it believes can be eliminated in any future tax reform to get the new revenue.
This story was posted at 2:46 and updated at 3:45 p.m.