The two Senate leaders were trying Saturday to hash out a tax-and-spending deal to avert this "fiscal cliff," even as both sides took to the airwaves to try to assure voters they want to get something done.
President Obama used his weekly radio address to warn that every taxpayer's paycheck is about to "get a lot smaller" if Congress doesn't act, while Republicans said Mr. Obama must play a role in any final deal.
"The president's tax hike would only fund the government for eight days. Americans deserve to know: What does the President propose we do for the other 357 days of the year?" Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said in the GOP's radio response.
At stake are across-the-board tax increases that could leave average taxpayers paying thousands of dollars more to the federal government next year, which they'll begin to notice almost immediately because of higher withholding from their paychecks. The federal government also faces $110 billion in automatic spending cuts on Jan. 2, thanks to last year's debt deal.
Congress is trying to cancel much of the new taxes and spending cuts, arguing it will mean a better economy in the short run. But the Congressional Budget Office says doing so would deepen the deficit, pile up record debt and leave a worse-off economy in the long run.
With less than three days to go before the taxes kick in, Mr. Obama hosted a meeting at the White House on Friday where the two top Senate leaders, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, agreed to try to find a last-ditch Plan C.
They gave the Senate the day off on Saturday, with plans to return Sunday, when they said they hoped to have a deal ready.
But that didn't stop the sniping on radio.
Mr. Obama said the economy is finally beginning to turn a corner, and said now is not the time to let all tax rates rise. He said that should only happen for the wealthy.
"We cannot let Washington politics get in the way of America's progress. We've got to do what it takes to protect the middle class, grow this economy and move our country forward," he said.
But Mr. Blunt countered that Republicans in the House have already passed plans to avert both the spending cuts and tax increases, and he said Democrats have left the government bumping up against the deadline.
"Instead of working across the aisle and considering the House-passed plan to protect taxpayers, Senate Democrats have spent months drawing partisan lines in the sand," he said.
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