The agreement would likely see Democrats get the tax increase of top earners they've been demanding.
Top staffers are working on a fiscal cliff deal after leading Democrats emerged encouraged from a Friday White House meeting in which Republican leaders did not explicitly reject the suggestion they accept a Senate-passed bill that would allow tax rates to rise on top earners, leadership aides said.
Democrats hope their bill, which would need to pass only the House, can serve as a "down payment" this year in a deal that would include agreement on a mechanism to enact tax and entitlement reforms next year.
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"The real development from our standpoint is that we said we are absolutely clear that we are sticking to our position that the Senate bill is what is [going to] happen between now and December 25th," the Democratic aide said. "Notably, Republicans didn't shoot that down."
The bill the Senate passed freezes rates for households earning under $250,000 and patches the Alternative Minimum Tax.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spokesman Don Stewart mocked the suggestion GOP leaders' silence on Democrats' suggestion is significant. "We didn't rule out unicorns," Stewart said. "We didn't rule out building a cheese factory on the moon and Democrats didn't rule out abolishing the EPA."