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McConnell Reaches Out For Help From Biden In Waning Hours Of Budget Fight

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Newscom

Negotiations broke down Sunday after McConnell pressed Reid to include in a year-end deal a provision that would re-index Social Security payments to a less generous measurement of inflation called chained CPI. Dems say including Social Security cuts in a deal that doesn't increase the debt limit is a non-starter.

On the Senate floor Sunday afternoon, Reid officially quashed the offer. "We're willing to make difficult concessions as part of a balanced, comprehensive agreement but we'll not agree to cut Social Security benefits as part of a small or short-term agreement, especially if that agreement gives more handouts to the rich."

In other words, Dems might swallow chained CPI or other cuts to social programs as part of a broader agreement in 2013, but current negotiations must focus on the narrow issue of protecting middle-class tax payers from a tax increase.

So what comes next? After Reid told McConnell he was unprepared to provide a counter-offer, a senior Senate Democratic aide said "this might be it."

McConnell's offer suggests a narrowly tailored agreement on taxes -- one that includes no spending concessions from Democrats, and allows tax rates on top earners to ride -- lacks broad support from his members.

Late update: Republicans have dropped the chained CPI demand. Senators in the Capitol suggested that the development could kickstart negotiations, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has yet to provide Republicans a counteroffer.

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com