WASHINGTON - Progress toward avoiding the "fiscal cliff" appears to be stalled -- with the Senate's top Democrat accusing House Speaker John Boehner of standing in the way of a solution to the looming tax hikes and spending cuts.
Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Harry Reid accused Boehner of appearing to "care more about keeping his speakership than about keeping the nation on sound financial footing."
Reid said the House could easily have passed a plan approved by the White House, with a majority of Democratic votes and a few dozen Republican votes. But House leaders generally avoid doing that, because they might alienate the Republican caucus and jeopardize the speaker's job.
Also Thursday, the White House says President Barack Obama made phone calls to Boehner, Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi before he left Hawaii for Washington yesterday. A statement says Obama got an update on the "fiscal negotiations," but it offered no detail on who is negotiating and whether the talks are getting anywhere.
As Obama flew back to Washington, even a stopgap solution seemed to be in doubt.
The House has passed a Republican plan to avert the fiscal cliff, and the Senate has passed a Democratic version. The deficit-cutting projections differ by hundreds of billions of dollars over 10 years.