Senate works into weekend as fiscal cliff looms

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - With just two days left, Senate leaders are still struggling to put together a last-minute bipartisan deal ahead of Monday's midnight deadline for the fiscal cliff. Failure could kick the country back into a recession.

On Saturday, the halls of the Senate were almost empty, as proposals got traded ideas got traded in private and by phone.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to sound upbeat. Asked if he was going to get a deal by a reporter, McConnell replied: "I hope so."

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House Speaker John Boehner came to the Capitol but left with no comment.

Issue number one in the talks is amending the Bush era tax cuts, which if unchanged, will expire and raise taxes on all Americans. Starting Tuesday, the average tax hike would increase 3-5 percent per person.

The president campaigned to increase taxes only on families making more than $250,000 a year.

Almost two weeks ago, Obama offered compromised to raise taxes only on income above $400,000, hoping that might win some Republican support. "I have gone at least half way," he had said.

The Senate is also negotiating an extension of unemployment benefits for some two million jobless Americans. Without a deal, those checks stop next week for Cateasha Miller, a mother of five, whose been searching for work since February.

"If Congress doesn't extend them -- unemployment benefits," she said, "then I would be without a home, and I really don't know what else we would do."

The deal under discussion in the Senate right now doesn't touch the biggest part of the fiscal cliff: the $1.2 trillion in mandatory spending cuts due to kick in this Tuesday. The thinking is, 'Let's handle the tax cuts now and revise the spending cuts later.'

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.

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