Fiscal cliff: Lawmakers divided over final talks

Obama wants vote on 'basic package'

(CNN) - Republican and Democratic lawmakers were split Sunday over the trajectory of last-minute efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff, a series of major tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in just after the start of the new year.

While President Barack Obama has called on the Senate to pass legislation that would extend tax cuts for middle-class Americans, Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said such action fails to solve the country's deficit problem.

"The president is doing nothing about the addiction that his administration has to spending. He's the spender in chief," Barrasso said in a panel discussion on CNN's "State of the Union." Barrasso maintained "there is no deal yet," saying he spoke Sunday morning with those on Capitol Hill working on an agreement.

"This is going to continue, I think, on until tomorrow," he added.

With two days to go before the January 1 deadline to avert the fiscal cliff, the ball now rests in the Senate's court, and the pressure is on to come up with a deal that will pass both chambers.

A panel of lawmakers on "State of the Union" disagreed over what could pass in a final package. Republicans, such as Barrasso, say current negotiations don't go far enough in tackling spending, while Democrats stress an urgent need to extend tax cuts for incomes under a certain threshold.

The president campaigned on a message that tax cuts should be allowed to expire on households making more than $250,000, while Republicans have pushed for all Americans to benefit from continued tax cuts. In the ongoing negotiations, Congress has yet to come up with a plan that firmly sets a threshold figure.

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said if the new terms in a negotiated deal ultimately include an increase in the threshold to $400,000, then it was a "possibility" that she might compromise and vote for the package. She added the extension of unemployment benefits must also be part of the package.

"It is time for everybody to be all in," Stabenow said, calling for the wealthiest to pay higher tax rates. "This is common sense. This is about everybody participating to solve the problem."

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, however, said the math doesn't add up and insisted the only real way to close the gap is to make serious cuts on the spending side.

"Even if you put back all the revenue you would get from those higher taxes, you still have a deficit. That's what we're trying to change," he told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

As a measure of last resort, Obama said if no deal is reached, he would call for an up-or-down vote on a "basic package" that would prevent a tax hike on the middle class and extend unemployment benefits.

Asked Sunday if Republicans would stand in the way of such a vote in the Senate, Barrasso said they're going to "continue to focus on cutting spending."

Pressed further on whether he would try to stop the vote, the Wyoming senator said, "I don't think anybody's going to stop it, but I'm not sure they have the votes to pass it."

Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, however, said Republicans were causing friction in the continued talks.

"The American people deserve an up-or-down vote. The Republicans should commit to that," Edwards said.

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