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No End in Sight as Congressional Impasse Over Fiscal Cliff Drags On

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Even as Boehner brought to the floor on Thursday a plan that would allow taxes to increase only on millionaires leaders acknowledged that his bill is unlikely to be the solution.

“He’s trying to condition the conference for what’s ahead. This isn’t going to be the last big negotiation we’re going to have,” the member said. “Some of these people are going to have to learn you can’t have absolute victories with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate. If you think this is bad, wait until you get to tax reform.”

Still, some Republicans were not persuaded. “I don’t want to raise taxes on anybody,” Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga, said. “I think it’s the wrong thing to do. We’ve got to stop the outrageous spending here in Washington because spending is the problem; it’s not about taxes.”

Senate Republicans saw the measure similarly as Dreier did: a means to a legislative end.

Each previous budget or spending negotiation this Congress has largely been forged by congressional leaders, then blessed by the president.

Boehner and Obama failed to reach a grand bargain in 2011 and seem on the brink of failing to do so again this year. Top GOP aides wonder when the talks between the principals will resume in earnest.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reiterated Thursday that he would not “do anything” with the House legislation. “We’re not taking up any of the things they are working on over there. ... It’s time for Republicans to get serious,” Reid said at a tense afternoon news conference.

Senate Democratic aides insist that Reid meant what he said. But as the standoff gets closer to Christmas, or New Year’s for that matter, the pressure will only increase for lawmakers to find a way out of the impasse.

When asked, senators did not indicate there were any contingency plans in case the administration and House GOP fall short of a deal and take the government over the fiscal cliff.

If it’s true that there’s no real backup plan in the works — lawmakers have been extraordinarily guarded throughout the talks — congressional Democrats could face some pressure to step up to the table and work out a deal with their Republican counterparts.

“So we’re ready here to negotiate with the House anytime,” Reid said. “We’re here to reach out to our Republicans in the House and tell them, get back and start talking to the president. You have a multitrillion-dollar deal that they’ve been talking about, multitrillion deal. They’re a couple of hundred billion dollars apart. This is absolutely senseless.”

The prospects of any sort of deal being reached before Christmas, especially, looked dim Thursday.

The schedule is working against lawmakers as services for the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, continue, first on Friday at the National Cathedral and then on Sunday in Hawaii. According to multiple sources, lawmakers have commissioned a government plane for members who want to attend the final service in Honolulu; that plane is scheduled to leave Saturday.

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