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Senate leaders seek last-minute fiscal cliff deal

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. leaves the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, after a closed-door meeting between President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders to negotiate the framework for a deal on the fiscal cliff. The end game at hand, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders made a final stab at compromise Friday to prevent a toxic blend of middle-class tax increases and spending cuts from taking effect at the turn of the new year. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders groped for a last-minute compromise Saturday to avoid middle-class tax increases and possibly prevent deep spending cuts at the dawn of the new year as President Barack Obama warned that failure could mean a "self-inflicted wound to the economy."

Obama chastised lawmakers in his weekly radio and Internet address for waiting until the last minute to try and avoid a "fiscal cliff," yet said there was still time for an agreement. "We cannot let Washington politics get in the way of America's progress," he said as the hurry-up negotiations unfolded.

For all the recent expressions of urgency, bargaining took place by phone, email and paper in a Capitol nearly empty except for tourists. Alone among top lawmakers, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell spent the day in his office.

In the Republicans' weekly address, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri cited a readiness to compromise. "Divided government is a good time to solve hard problems — and in the next few days, leaders in Washington have an important responsibility to work together and do just that," he said.

Even so, there was no guarantee of success, and a dispute over the federal tax on large estates emerged as yet another key sticking point alongside personal income tax rates.


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