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Efforts for Plan to Avoid Fiscal Cliff Pick Up Speed

Bennet and Alexander, meanwhile, are trying to put together legislative language for what is described as a similar but more detailed proposal.

The two senators and their staffs have provided few details about their proposal. But Bell, who has assisted them with the effort, said the goal is “an actual legislative package that would . . . actually change tax law and would actually change entitlement spending laws.”

A Senate Democratic aide who spoke on condition that he not be identified said the Bennet-Alexander proposal would “give leadership and the committees some options when everybody comes back to Washington” after the election.

Details to Change

Senate leaders said they are open to proposals offered by other senators as well as outside groups.

Last June, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told former Sen. Pete Domenici, who was testifying before the panel on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Center, that he was looking forward to the framework the BPC was then still working on.

“We can help each other, frankly,” Baucus told the New Mexico Republican.

The House this year passed its own plans to avoid the scheduled tax increases and spending cuts. A reconciliation bill approved in May would replace most of the spending cuts in the first year of the sequester with reductions in mandatory spending on domestic programs. The House passed tax legislation in August that would extend the tax cuts until the end of 2013. The legislation also sets the parameters for an overhaul of the tax system to make it more simple and provides for expedited consideration of the measure.

Asked whether House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, was open to the BPC plan, his spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner supports the House “framework.” Unlike some other proposals, the House plan does not include a penalty for failure to overhaul the tax code. But it provides incentives to accomplish the task by allowing the tax cuts to expire if the overhaul does not happen.

Some speculate that Republican and Democratic lawmakers, despite their contrasting positions on taxes and entitlement programs, could build a bridge between the House legislation and emerging Senate proposals.

“I don’t think what the House Republicans have done is totally inconsistent with what a bipartisan agreement could look like,” said Marc Goldwein, senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Not in terms of the details. The details would have to change, but in terms of the idea that we [delay] the sequester temporarily and we pay for the savings and we extend some of the tax cuts and create a process for tax reform.”

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