The Washington Times - May 22, 2012, 10:58AM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that the next step in the looming fiscal showdown belongs to Republicans, who will have to signal they are open to tax increases on the wealthy in order to have any chance at striking a deal.

In a letter to Republican senators, the Nevada Democrat said the only way to begin negotiating a way to head off the automatic spending cuts due at the end of this year, including to defense programs, is for GOP lawmakers to “abandon their commitment to more tax breaks for multimillionaires and special interests.”

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“A strict adherence to tea party ideology among Republicans in both the House and the Senate has so far put that balanced, common-sense solution out of reach,” Mr. Reid said.

The end of this year will see a pile-up of major issues: The 2001, 2003 and payroll tax cuts all expire; the automatic “sequesters” from last year’s debt deal begin to bite; and the federal government’s debt ceiling will need to be raised again.

Last week, House Speaker John A. Boehner delivered a speech laying out his expectations, including that any debt increase will need to be coupled dollar-for-dollar with new deficit reduction. He called his stand “a line in the sand.”

But Mr. Reid’s letter marks yet another line: The GOP will have to agree to some tax increases in any final deal. For the last three years, Republicans have headed off repeated attempts by Democrats to raise taxes — and many have vowed to keep that streak going.