WASHINGTON Nov 25 U.S. lawmakers have made
little progress in the last 10 days toward a compromise to avoid
the harsh tax increases and government spending cuts scheduled
for Jan. 1, a senior Democratic senator said on Sunday.
The United States is on course to slash its budget deficit
nearly in half next year. Closing the gap that quickly, which in
Washington is referred to as going over a "fiscal cliff," could
easily trigger a recession.
"Unfortunately, for the last 10 days, with the House and
Congress gone for the Thanksgiving recess ... much progress
hasn't been made," Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told
ABC's "This Week" program.
A deadline is looming. Absent action by lawmakers and
President Barack Obama, roughly $600 billion in tax increases
and spending cuts will start to hit households and companies in
Republicans and Obama's Democrats are at an impasse over the
president's wish to raise income tax rates on the wealthiest
Americans, which Republicans say would hurt job creation.
Republicans also want to cut spending on social programs
more than Democrats say they will accept.
Durbin said Democrats are willing to allow small changes to
parts of these entitlement programs, including public health
insurance programs for the elderly and poor, but the Social
Security government pension program should not be on the table.
"Bring entitlement reform into the conversation. Social
Security, set (it) aside," Durbin said.