U.S. Budget Bargain Shrinks as Congress Nears Deadline

The deal that seems possible to fix the U.S. budget is getting smaller and smaller.

Five days before a deadline that would trigger more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that could cause a U.S. recession, Congress will return Dec. 27 amid calls for action in the Senate.

The politics of progress there are easier than in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which balked last week at Speaker John Boehner’s plan for tax increases on income above $1 million. Still, the House would have to sign off next. Boehner and President Barack Obama have been unable to agree on the tax-rate increase on top earners Obama wants or the cuts to entitlement programs that Boehner sought, complicating the chances of getting a package done.

“At this point, all they’re looking for is a fig leaf,” said Stan Collender, a former staff member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House and Senate budget committees who’s now at Qorvis Communications in Washington. “There’s no grand bargain. There never was.”

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