Goals for Reaching a Deal to Avert Tax Hikes Still Unsettled

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With only about three weeks left to work on a deal to prevent $607 billion in tax increases and spending cuts from going into effect, the president and senior lawmakers continue to disagree over not just the details of policies, but also the goals that need to be achieved. President Obama urges Congress to extend middle-class tax rates now so lawmakers can clear the way for a more comprehensive deficit-reduction plan with tax reform next year. Republicans, meanwhile, say the focus is to extend all of the current tax rates through 2013 and cut entitlement spending as a way to reduce the budget deficit. Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the 2010 anti-deficit presidential commission often referred to as Bowles-Simpson, says one option is for the two sides to play “small ball,” and come up with a plan to forestall the tax increases and spending cuts while a larger deal is negotiated.