a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff and warned that we only have a couple weeks to get something done.
Despite frustration, Reid said he was optimistic lawmakers would avoid plunging off the cliff, a convergence of an estimated $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts. I'm extremely hopeful, and I do not believe that the Republicans are going to allow us to go over the cliff, he said.
While Republicans have not shifted from their opposition to tax rate increases, a few have publicly disavowed a no-new-taxes pledge to which most of them have adhered for years, putting tax revenues, if not higher rates, on the negotiating table.
Also on Tuesday, Dick Durbin, a senior Senate Democrat and close Obama ally, urged fellow liberals to consider reforming Medicare and Medicaid, signaling possible compromise in an area where Democrats have steadfastly resisted change.
Progressives should be willing to talk about ways to ensure the long-term viability of Medicare and Medicaid for the elderly and poor, Durbin said in excerpts from a speech.
But he added that Medicare and Medicaid should not be part of the current negotiations on averting the fiscal cliff. On that front, Durbin stood firmly with Obama, urging extension of middle-class tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans.