Negotiations are continuing between Republicans and Democrats seeking a compromise to avoid sending the country over the fiscal cliff, but it's becoming increasingly unlikely a deal—if reached—could be voted on by Congress before the end of 2012.
The best chance for an agreement is developing between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have exchanged a series of phone calls since Sunday and into Monday, according to news reports.
"There's still some issues that need to be resolved before we can bring legislation to the floor," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as the Senate opened up for business Monday.
But while much of the focus leading up to a potential deal has been hinging on GOP support for raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, the latest twist is that Democrats may not have the stomach for compromises the White House is putting on the table.
During an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, President Barack Obama criticized Republicans for their unwillingness to deal, pointing out that he's made pitches that have been met with protest by some in his own party.
"The offers that I've made to them have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me," he said.
Emerging details of the Biden-McConnell talks indicate tax rates would increase for individuals earning more than $400,000 a year, higher than the Obama-sought $250,000 threshold, but a significant concession from Republicans who opposed any increase in rates. Democrats have also started to grumble about rumors that Biden and McConnell's deal would offer estate tax relief, but not continue a popular payroll tax cut.
The potential compromise would only be a band-aid on the deeper fiscal issues confronting the country, designed to push off a reckoning on deficit reduction between 60 and 90 days, according to reports. It's also unclear whether or not the Biden-McConnell deal would delay the deep spending cuts scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. And if a deal is struck, there's still a question of whether or not it will pass both chambers.