Sen. Reid: 'Extremely Difficult' to Solve Fiscal Cliff
The Senate's top Democrat says "it's going to be extremely difficult" to pass legislation to address the so-called fiscal cliff before Christmas, but adds there's still a chance it can be done.
Majority Leader Harry Reid commented Tuesday amid a souring mood in Washington over negotiations to forestall automatic tax increases and spending cuts next year that could hurt the economy.
House Speaker John Boehner has accused the White House of stalling the negotiations.
There's just two weeks until Christmas and little progress in talks between Boehner and President Barack Obama. Even if a deal is reached soon, time is needed to draft a bill and get it through the House and Senate and to Obama.
Reid said, "this is not something we can do easily."
House Speaker John Boehner says President Barack Obama is slow-walking talks to avoid the fiscal cliff, and hasn't outlined spending cuts he's willing to support as part of a compromise.
The Ohio Republican said Tuesday that without spending cuts, there can be no balanced plan to reduce deficits and avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in at the turn of the year.
In a downbeat assessment of negotiations to date, the speaker said the longer the president drags the talks, the closer the economy gets to the fiscal cliff and the threat of a new recession.
Meanwhile, the Senate Republican leader is calling on President Barack Obama and Democrats to spell out where they would cut government spending as part of any deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff."
Sen. Mitch McConnell complained on Tuesday that Obama has spent his time talking about raising tax rates but has failed to specify where he would reduce out-of-control government spending.
The Kentucky Republican cited recent studies on wasteful government spending, including $325,000 on a Robotic squirrel name RoboSquirrel.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling on Republicans to permit a vote on President Barack Obama's plan to let tax cuts expire at upper incomes, while keeping them in place for the middle class.
In remarks on the floor of the House, she predicted the legislation would pass.
Rebutting remarks that Speaker John Boehner made moments earlier, the California Democrat said Obama and Democrats have in fact identified spending cuts they can support as part of a balanced plan to avert a "fiscal cliff" that threatens to send the economy into another recession.
Without action by Congress, tax cuts will expire on all income levels and government funding for numerous programs will be cut at the end of the year.
And - liberal Democratic members of Congress are warning President Barack Obama to not cut the Medicaid health care program as part of negotiations with Republicans over avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., said Tuesday that Obama knows that "our votes are at stake" over the issue.
He and other Democrats held a news conference with labor and other liberal groups to say that cuts to Medicaid should not be accepted as a trade-off with Republicans in exchange for Obama's goal of raising income tax rates on the highest earners. Medicaid covers nearly 60 million low-income and disabled people.
Obama and Republicans are negotiating over ways to avoid the "fiscal cliff," steep tax increases and spending cuts that will otherwise automatically take effect in January. (AP)