'Fiscal cliff' deal in sight

'Fiscal cliff' deal in sight

'Fiscal cliff' deal in sight

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by CBS News/AP

KREM.com

Posted on December 31, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 31 at 11:57 AM

Most of the world is counting down to a midnight New Year's celebration while Congress continues to watch the clock and count down to another deadline, despite the efforts of lawmakers to avert the " fiscal cliff."

And as President Obama is set to urge negotiators to focus on the middle-class, CBS News has learned that there's been agreement on one of the major hangups to a deal.

Multiple congressional sources tell CBS News that the two sides have agreed  on an income threshold for the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans: $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families.  For weeks, Democrats have pushed for letting the cuts expire for those making over $200,000 and families making over $250,000 while Republicans have wanted to renew the cuts for all Americans, including the wealthiest.

Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have been the key negotiators over the past 24 hours and the movement on taxes represents a huge step forward in the talks.

Other items that could be included in a deal include an extension of unemployment benefits and reimbursement rates for doctors who treat Medicare patients. As both of those items are costly, Republicans are worried that the new deal could raise the deficit instead of cutting it.

The agreement on taxes comes comes two hours after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., updated the holiday-starved, grumpy and weary "cliff" watchers and announced the obvious: time is running out and that "there are a number of issues on which the two sides are still far apart."

Reid said discussions continue but any sort of agreement will "need cooperation from both sides."

As negotiations continue, the tenor and focus of the talks have shifted from the top member in the House and the president to the Senate leaders.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who for weeks negotiated directly with President Obama, froze himself out of the arena just before Christmas with his ill-fated attempt at a "Plan B" that landed with a thud among a few dozen of his own members. Then, after Mr. Obama flew back from his Hawaiian vacation, presumably unhappy about leaving paradise for the cold and deserted nation's capital, and summoned congressional leaders to the White House and dumped the onus of reaching a deal on the laps of Reid and McConnell.

Alas, Sunday, McConnell found himself throwing his hands up in exasperation after Reid slow-walked a promised counter-proposal and he picked up the phone to the White House to find, as he put it, "a dancing partner" in Vice President Joe Biden.

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