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Obama keeps up the pressure as Senators Reid and McConnell negotiate 'fiscal cliff'

President Obama appeared on 'Meet the Press' Sunday as Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell tried to work out a last-minute deal to avoid plunging over the 'fiscal cliff.'

By Staff writer / December 30, 2012

President Barack Obama speaks to reporters at the White House after meeting with Congressional leaders regarding the fiscal cliff Friday. He appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday as Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell tried to work out a deal.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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The calendar says two days until we all fall off the fiscal cliff, but it’s really down to a few hours.

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Where things stand now: Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada and his Republican counterpart, minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are huddled with staff, trying to work out a deal to prevent that $600 billion mix of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in on New Year’s Day Tuesday.

Whatever Senators Reid and McConnell are able to negotiate presumably will make it through the Senate, where Democrats are in charge and where most Republicans are less vulnerable than House members to a challenge from the right in the 2014 mid-term elections.

More problematic is the GOP-controlled House, where a group of tea party Republicans stymied and embarrassed Speaker John Boehner by preventing his “Plan B” attempt to reach a deal with the White House.

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Still, there are ways to get to “yes” – which include postponing some sticky issues.

As the Monitor’s Gail Russell Chaddock reported Saturday:

“These include $110 billion in mandated spending cuts, known as the ‘sequester,’ unemployment benefits set to drop back to 26 weeks from a current 99 weeks, the end to a $5 million exemption for the estate tax, and a ‘patch’ to the alternative minimum tax, set to hit some 40 million families, if Congress does not act. Also on the table: a hike to the debt ceiling, now set to be breached early on Dec. 31, which the Treasury says can be delayed for weeks by emergency measures.”

When last heard from, all three principals – Reid, McConnell, and President Obama – expressed measured (very measured) optimism that the inexorable slide toward cliff’s edge could be halted, before automatic tax hikes kicked in for all Americans as millions of others lose the extended unemployment benefits that have kept them afloat through tough economic times.

But both Senate leaders face potential push-back from their own ranks.

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