McConnell: ‘We are very, very close’

December 31, 2012

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EARLIER ON THE FIX: 

Republicans’ 2016 problem — in 2 charts

The ‘fiscal cliff’s’ Most Valuable Republicans

Hillary Clinton: The ‘Most Admired Woman’ in the world

What Americans think of Congress’s procrastination — in one chart

How Congress has already failed on the fiscal cliff

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: 

* Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor just before 3 p.m. that Congress is "very, very close" to a "fiscal cliff" deal. "I can report that we've reached an agreement on all of the tax -- the tax -- issues," he said. "We are very, very close."

* President Obama said at a news conference earlier this afternoon that a deal preventing tax hikes on middle-class Americans is "within sight." But Obama expressed regret that a grand bargain could not be reached on the fiscal cliff. "With this Congress, that was obviously too much to hope for at this time," he said.

* Obama made the remarks in front of a group of middle-class Americans, who at times cheered and laughed -- a scene that seemed like a campaign rally and earned the ire of some Republicans. "So what did the president of the United States just do? Well, he made a couple of jokes, laughed about how people are going to be here for new year’s, sent a message of confrontation to the Republicans," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

* Negotiators appeared to be close to a deal Monday afternoon, with less than 12 hours until the deadline. Democrats appear to have offered significant concessions, including moving the threshold for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire to $450,000 -- up from their preference of $250,000 -- and on the estate tax. Still at issue, though, is a disagreement about whether to delay automatic spending cuts.

* Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) isn't happy with the $450,000 figure. “We’re going to lock in forever the idea that $450,000 a year is middle class in America,’’ Harkin said. “The direction they are heading in is absolutely the wrong direction for our country.’’

WHAT YOU SHOULDN'T MISS:

* In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman says his party is "devoid of a soul" and needs a "strong dose of libertarianism" -- starting with letting states decide on gay marriage.

* The Pentagon says it will have to issue furloughs to 800,000 civilian employees if there is no fiscal cliff deal on the automatic cuts.

* Here's something we missed: In the days after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., one Democrat who wasn't on board with new gun laws was Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer. He offered this doozy: "I don’t want to sound like a terrorist here, but you give me 20 gallons of propane, I can do a lot of damage in a very short period of time. ... If there are evil people, they can use guns, or as we’ve seen in Russia, they can also use things like propane. You can use natural gas. Five gallons of gasoline and imagine what can happen.” Schweitzer is thought to be considering a presidential run in 2016.

* A new CNN poll shows 65 percent of Democrats say they are "very likely" to support Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, compared to just 26 percent who say the same about Vice President Biden.

* The Post has a great Fiscal Cliff Calculator so you can see how the tax increases and automatic spending cuts contained in the fiscal cliff package would affect you.

THE FIX MIX:

What Congress sounds like to most people

Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Chris Cillizza | December 31, 2012