Senators expect 'fiscal cliff' debate to extend into new year

December 24, 2012 

WASHINGTON — Senators bickered Sunday over who's to blame for lurching the country toward a year-end "fiscal cliff," bemoaning the lack of a deal days before the deadline but bridging no differences in the debate.

With the collapse Thursday of House Speaker John Boehner's plan to allow tax rates to rise on million-dollar-plus incomes, Sen. Joe Lieberman said "it's the first time that I feel it's more likely we'll go over the cliff than not," meaning that higher taxes for most Americans and painful federal agency budget cuts would be in line to go ahead.

"If we allow that to happen it will be the most colossal consequential act of congressional irresponsibility in a long time, maybe ever in American history because of the impact it'll have on almost every American," Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said on CNN's State of the Union.

Wyoming Sen. Jon Barrasso, a member of the GOP leadership, predicted that the new year would come without an agreement, and he faulted the White House.

"I believe the president is eager to go over the cliff for political purposes. He senses a victory at the bottom of the cliff," he said on Fox News Sunday.

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, countered Barrasso's assertion that "there is only one person that can provide the leadership" on a matter vital to the nation's interests.

"There are 535 of us that can provide leadership. There are 435 in the House, 100 in the Senate and there is the president, all of us have a responsibility here," he said on the Fox show. "And, you know what is happening? What is happening is the same old tired blame game. He said/she said. I think the American people are tired of it. What they want to hear is, what is the solution?"

No solution seemed any nearer, with Obama and Congress on a short holiday break. Congress is expected to be back at work Thursday and Obama in the White House after a few days in Hawaii.

"It is time to get back to the table," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also on Fox. "And I hope if anyone sees these representatives from the House in line shopping or getting their Christmas turkey, they wish them a merry Christmas, they're civil, and then say go back to the table, not your own table, the table in Washington."

Predicted Lieberman: "We're going to spend New Year's Eve here I believe."

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