Reid and McConnell start lame duck at odds on taxes, deficit issues

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear that they will stick to their ground Tuesday in the first floor speeches since the election.

Reid called for a “balanced approach” to dealing with the "fiscal cliff" that would include tax hikes on wealthy Americans.

“It’s within our power now to forge an agreement to get the richest among us to pay a little more to protect our economic future,” Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. “We could avoid the fiscal cliff for 98 percent of Americans today. ... It’s one vote away.”

But McConnell said President Obama needs to propose a plan that can pass in the Republican House and a divided Senate.

“Saying we need a balanced approach is not a plan ... it’s simply a poll-tested talking point,” McConnell said. “The time for the president to lead is now and that means offering a concrete plan that can pass when half of Congress disagrees with raising taxes.”

Reid urged his Republican colleagues to work with Democrats by agreeing to raise taxes on the wealthiest in order to strike a deficit-reduction deal.

“Solutions are in our grasp, we only have to make the choice to pull together rather than pull apart,” Reid said. “I urge Republicans to join us in the difficult time ahead.”

McConnell said Republicans are willing to increase revenue by simplifying the tax code, rather than raising tax rates on those making more than $250,000 a year, which he said would only fund the government for one week.

“The amount of revenue [Democrats are] prepared to push us over the cliff over wouldn’t fund the government for one week, so why would we want to do that?” McConnell said.

Reid said Republicans should come together with Democrats for the sake of American children and the future of the country. McConnell agreed, but said Republicans would only agree to a deal if entitlement reform was part of the deal.

“Republicans like me have said we’re open to tax reform if we address entitlements,” McConnell said. “New revenue must be tied to genuine entitlement reform.

“Make no mistake, Republicans are offering bipartisan solutions, now it’s the president’s turn to offer a plan.”

At the end of the year, Bush-era tax rates are set to expire and automatic spending cuts that were part of the sequestration deal will take place unless lawmakers come to a different agreement to reduce spending. Some lawmakers are working on a deal behind the scenes with hopes that it will pass in December.