McConnell: Agreement struck on tax portion of fiscal-cliff negotiations

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) announced Monday afternoon that he and Vice President Biden have agreed on the tax portion of a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff."

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McConnell said negotiators are very close to a final deal, and urged his colleagues to decouple taxes from spending issues and pass a bill to shield the vast majority of people from tax increases.

“I can report that we’ve reached an agreement on all of the tax issues,” he said. “We are very, very close.”

Democrats and Republicans remain divided over what to do about $109 billion in automatic spending cuts to domestic discretionary and defense programs. Both sides agree the cuts should be postponed but cannot agree how to pay for that delay or whether to pay for it at all.

Democrats want any postponement of the debt ceiling to be paid for by raising taxes on families earning above $450,000 a year. Republicans say that is unacceptable. They say it should be offset with other spending cuts.

McConnell proposed moving ahead on the tax portion of the negotiation, which has been resolved.

“We all want to protect taxpayers and we can get it done now,” he said. “We’ll continue to work on finding smarter ways to cut spending, but let’s not let that hold up protecting Americans from the tax hike that will take place in about 10 hours, 10 hours from now.”