Obama "slowing down" progress on "fiscal cliff" deal, Barrasso says


(CBS News) Less than 24 hours before America reaches the brink of the so-called "fiscal cliff," President Obama is "slowing down" Congress' progress at getting a deal through to stop the U.S. economy from plummeting into a disastrous recession, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said today on "CBS This Morning."

Citing floor remarks from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Sunday, during which he said he had been in communication with the White House and had no counter-offer to put forward to Republicans four hours past his self-imposed deadline, Barrasso said, "It seems like the president is handcuffing Harry Reid from even bringing a bill to the floor now.

"The president is, I believe, slowing down the process, not helping," Barrasso continued.

Reid announced early Sunday evening there were still too many differences between proposals from Republicans and Democrats to bring a bill up for a vote, but said the session would reconvene at 11 a.m. ET today, "hopefully" with more progress to report. Largely stalling the talks are disagreements over the income threshold at which to expire the Bush-era tax cuts, and discrepancies over the estate tax rate.

Barasso, though, said there remains for Republicans "a major sticking point" in the amount of government spending Mr. Obama is pushing.

"The president doesn't seem too eager to actually get involved and find solutions to deal with the number one problem facing our country," he said. "The real problem is spending. If you want to raise taxes, as the president promised in the campaign, he wanted to do that, it was to pay down the deficit. There's no evidence of any of that."

CBS News White House Correspondent Major Garrett reported the White House is preparing to deliver layoff notices and contract delays today to "a wide array" of government agencies, "this to comply with across-the board spending cuts."

Still, any agreement, if one is reached today, is unlikely to include significant spending cuts - "Republicans seem to have accepted that they're running out of time on that front," CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes reported. And Democrats, for their part, appear to have accepted that cuts to entitlement programs will become a major bargaining chip in the upcoming debt ceiling debate in January and February.

Barrasso said he's "hoping we resolve this today to give the American people some certainty," but reiterated, "Bottom line is the president's the only one with a pen who can sign into law something. And he ought to be very involved with making sure he gets something he will sign that will pass both a Republican controlled House and a Democrat-controlled Senate."

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    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.