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'Fiscal cliff': How far apart are the sides now on tax cut deal?

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These include:

  • A GOP bid to keep the expiring estate tax rate at its current 35 percent rate with an exemption for estates worth less than $5 million. In a concession, Senate Democrats are allowing the issue to come to the floor for a vote.
  • A Democratic proposal to extend the current 15 percent tax on dividends and capital gains, also set to expire on Jan. 1, only for middle-income families.
  • A Democratic proposal to delay $109 billion in mandated spending cuts known as the sequester for a year, on the grounds that revenue from expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts will offset the cuts. Republicans call for replacing mandated spending cuts, especially in defense, with their own targeted cuts.
  • A bid to extend unemployment benefits, set to fall from 99 weeks to 24 weeks, at a cost of $30 billion.
  • The annual, bipartisan “doc fix,” which prevents a 27 percent cut in payments to physicians serving Medicare patients. Congress passed the measure in 1997 as part of a balanced-budget agreement to rein in Medicare costs, but soaring health-care costs made the cuts unsustainable.
  • The annual “fix” for the alternative minimum tax, which Congress intended to force the wealthiest taxpayers to curb their use of tax breaks. But over time, the AMT did not keep up with inflation and is now set to hit at least 30 million families.

But even if Senate leaders can come to an agreement on a deficit-reduction deal, it would take just one senator to object to an expedited process that requires unanimous consent.

Moreover, any Senate agreement has to pass the House, where earlier this month at least 50 GOP conservatives doomed a proposal by Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio to set a cutoff point for extending tax breaks at $1 million.

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