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Congress Struggles Over Fiscal Cliff Solution At Rare Year-End Session

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Washington lawmakers convened Sunday for a rare, end-of-the-year session to address the so-called fiscal cliff that will set into motion expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts at the start of the new year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there was no agreement by Sunday afternoon, and both sides still seemed pretty far apart.

The Senate took the lead in negotiations Sunday, to try and lessen the impact of the fiscal cliff.

A series of Senate Republicans sent Democrats their offer Saturday night, which included a chained consumer price index that would adjust government benefits, or entitlements, with inflation. That would essentially lower payments to programs like Social Security.

Democrats flat out rejected the proposal, saying it is not a starting point, and therefore did not come out with a counter offer.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in response, said Democrats showed a lack of urgency.

"The sticking point appears to be a willingness, an interest, or frankly the courage to close the deal," said McConnell. "I want everyone to know I'm willing to get this done, but I need a dance partner."

"We're willing to make difficult concessions as part of a balanced, comprehensive agreement, but we will not agree to cut Social Security benefits as part of a small or short-term agreement, especially if that agreement gives more handouts to the rich," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

President Barack Obama appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday to warn Republicans that the window for a solution was closing.

"My hope is that people recognize that, regardless of partisan differences, our top priority has to be to make sure that taxes on middle-class families do not go up. That would hurt our economy badly," Obama said. "We can get that done."

Many members of government were not optimistic an agreement would be reached in time.

"I don't anybody know what's going to happen," said Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, on CBS' "Face The Nation" on Sunday. "The odds are that we have not seen the leadership on either side of the aisle to solve this problem, and why would we think we would see the leadership in the next 24 hours to solve this problem?"

House Republicans planned to meet later Sunday evening, but there was no expectation of a vote on fiscal cliff matters.

If lawmakers failed to reach a deal, the Senate planned to vote on President Barack Obama's plan which would make current tax levels permanent for families making $250,000 a year or less. House Republicans have staunchly opposed that plan.

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