Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he would review any last-minute proposal President Barack Obama submits to avert the so-called fiscal cliff on Jan. 1. But the Kentucky Republican said he was "frustrated" with the lack of action to prevent steep tax hikes and spending cuts from going into effect, blaming Democrats for refusing to produce a plan that could win bipartisan support.
"We’re coming up against a hard deadline here ... this is a conversation we should have had months ago," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "And Republicans aren’t about to write a blank check for anything Senate Democrats put forward just because we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff. It’s not fair to the American people."
It was the latest volley in the Washington blame game over seemingly paralyzed negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff. Absent a deal, income taxes will go up for all Americans who pay them and popular government programs will be slashed.
At issue are Bush-era tax cuts set to expire Jan. 1. Obama campaigned on extending them for household income below $250,000 annually, while letting rates on the uppermost brackets slide back to where they were in the 1990s. Republicans want to extend all of the tax cuts.
Obama has recently softened his position, saying he would raise the income threshold to $400,000. House Republican Leader John Boehner pressed for legislation last week that would raise taxes only on earners making more than $1 million a year, but dropped the plan after concluding it would not win the support of a majority of House Republicans.
On Thursday morning, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid predicted that a dive over the cliff was all but inevitable. Responding to McConnell, Reid said that even wealthy Americans back Obama's drive to raise their taxes.
"The only people who think taxes shouldn’t be raised on the rich are the Republicans who work in this building," Reid said.