Senate leaders offer dour take on fiscal cliff talks
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top Senate negotiators on the effort to prevent the government from going over the "fiscal cliff" are offering a pessimistic assessment barely 24 hours before a deadline to avert tax hikes on virtually every worker.
But negotiations continued, with Vice President Joe Biden taking on a new role.
With the two sides differing on the income threshold for higher tax rates and how to deal with inheritance taxes, among other issues, talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell appeared to have broken down.
A McConnell spokesman said the Kentucky Republican reached out to Biden, a longtime friend, in hopes of breaking the impasse.
Republicans withdrew a long-discussed proposal to slow future cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients as part of a compromise to avoid the cliff. Democrats said that proposal had put a damper on the talks, and Republican senators emerging from a closed-door GOP meeting said it is no longer part of the equation.
The pessimistic turn came as the House and Senate returned to the Capitol for a rare Sunday session. The fate of the negotiations remain in doubt before the beginning of a new year that would trigger across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts that leaders in both parties have said they want to avoid.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top leaders in both parties on the House and Senate Agriculture committees have agreed to a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill that expired in October, a move that would head off a possible doubling of milk prices next month.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow indicated that the House could vote on it as early as Sunday evening. The agreement to extend current farm law until next October was reached as negotiators hit a snag on averting a broader fiscal cliff combination of higher taxes and spending cuts Jan. 1.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Americans faced the prospect of paying $7 for a gallon if the current dairy program lapsed and the government returned to a 1948 formula for calculating milk price supports.