Republicans and Democrats jousted on Sunday over the best way to avoid the "fiscal cliff" but also indicated a growing bipartisan consensus that any solution must include a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases.
"I think that's a given, and I think the vast majority of Americans agree with that," Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "The question is how do you do that and how do you allow taxes to rise at the same time [that] you fix the real problem? And the real problem is uncontrolled entitlement spending and a government that has grown massively."
The debate appears to center on the extent to which Democrats are willing to reform entitlement programs and whether additional revenue will come only from loophole closures and economic growth — as Republicans favor — or also from higher income tax rates for wealthy Americans.
The term "fiscal cliff" refers to a combination of spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect next year, if Congress does not act. The spending cuts total roughly $1 trillion over the next decade, including $500 billion from defense. The tax increases include the expiration of the payroll tax holiday and of the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts.
Some economists believe inaction by Congress could push the nation back into recession.
President Obama advocates an extension of the Bush tax cuts for most Americans but wants the cuts to expire for households that earn more than $250,000 per year. The top federal income tax rate would rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent under his plan.
Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said on "Meet the Press" that Obama's reelection was an endorsement of his approach.
"He campaigned on it clearly. He didn't back off from it," Schumer said. "The exit polls showed that 60 percent of the people agreed with it."
But Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that letting any tax cuts expire is not an option for the GOP. "No Republican will vote for higher tax rates," Graham said.
House Speaker John Boehner has consistently voiced the same position described by Graham but struck a bipartisan note in a speech on Wednesday. - CALLUM BORCHERS
Democrats may target filibuster use
A looming fight over Democratic efforts to curb filibusters is threatening to inflame partisan tensions in the Senate, even as President Obama and Republicans explore whether they can compromise on top-tier issues such as debt reduction.
A potential showdown vote to limit Senate filibusters would not come until January. Democrats are threatening to resort to a seldom-used procedure that could let them change the rules without GOP support, all but inviting Republican retaliation.
A filibuster is a procedural tactic that lets the minority party block bills that lack the support of at least 60 senators. Democrats seem likely to command a 55-45 majority in the new Senate, making 60 a difficult hurdle.
Frustrated by the GOP's growing use of filibusters, Harry Reid, the majority leader, is considering a Senate vote in the new year to limit their use.
''I think that the rules have been abused and that we're going to work to change them,'' Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told reporters this past week. - ASSOCIATED PRESS