A bipartisan group of eight Senators has been meeting behind closed doors for months in an effort to reach a deal to avoid the negative impacts of the fiscal cliff - nearly $7 trillion in deficit reduction set to begin in early 2013. The fiscal cliff is a combination of expiring tax cuts and already approved budget reductions, including $1.2 billion in budget sequestration that will impact all aspects of the federal government, including science, environmental and public health programs, and defense and security programs.

The Senators recently took advantage of the current congressional recess to meet for three days. Details about the discussions have been closely guarded from public scrutiny.

The ‘Gang of Eight’ is comprised of Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Michael Crapo (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mike Johanns (R-NE).

Even if the bipartisan group of lawmakers is able to reach a compromise on how to address the nation’s deficit, the rest of Congress may not concur. Any grand bargain will need support from Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle and both chambers of Congress. A major sticking point has been new revenue. Republicans have been unwilling to agree to tax increases, whereas Democrats are insisting on increased taxes for the wealthiest Americans. According to administration officials, President Obama will veto legislation to address the fiscal cliff unless it includes higher tax rates for the wealthy.

No announcement about a compromise is expected before the November election. Republicans and Democrats are expected to use the Presidential and Congressional election results as a way to bolster their respective bargaining positions, especially if control of one of the legislative chambers changes parties.


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