* Republicans seek distance from "no new taxes" pledge
* Both parties making an effort to show will to compromise
By Jason Lange
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.
However, lawmakers in both the Democratic and Republican
parties have been working hard to convince the public - and
financial markets - that they are willing to compromise and can
reach a deal before the end of the year.
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.
Still, a growing group of Republican lawmakers are loosening
their ties to Grover Norquist, the anti-tax lobbyist famous for
getting elected officials to sign a pledge that they will vote
against any tax increases.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Republicans will
allow tax revenues to rise as long as social spending programs
are reformed. "I will violate the pledge, long story short, for
the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement
reform," he told "This Week."
Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said last week he "cared
more about the country" than a 20-year-old pledge, and on Sunday
Republican Representative Peter King, chairman of the House
Homeland Security Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" he
agreed "completely" with Chambliss.
Durbin said Democrats are willing to allow small changes to
parts of the country's entitlement programs, including public
health insurance programs for the elderly and poor, but the
Social Security government pension program should not be on the
"Bring entitlement reform into the conversation. Social
Security, set (it) aside," Durbin said.
Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee,
said the ability to avoid the "fiscal cliff," depended on the
"The key here is whether or not the Republicans will move
away from the ideologically rigid position, which has been the
Grover Norquist pledge, which most of them signed," he said on
"Meet the Press."