"There is still time left to reach an agreement, and we intend to continue negotiations," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced early Sunday evening. "We're going to come in at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning. We'll have further announcements, perhaps, at 11 in the morning. I certainly hope so."
As the Senate struggles to reach an agreement, House members — who were back in Washington on Sunday — were left awaiting any potential legislation from the upper chamber.
Reid and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell had been tasked by President Barack Obama with developing a bare-bones deal to stave off the automatic tax hikes following the expiration of the 2001 Bush tax cuts at the end of the day on Monday.
But discussions between the leaders and their staff failed to produce an agreement. Democrats said that a main hangup involved what's known as "chained CPI," a re-calculation of how Social Security benefits grow in outlying years. Democrats regard that proposal, which Obama had previously offered to Republicans in the context of a broader bargain, as a "poison pill" if included in these last-ditch efforts.
The impasse prompted McConnell to reach out to Vice President Joe Biden, a former senator who's previously helped navigate congressional standoffs, in hopes of jump-starting negotiations. Biden was at the White House on Sunday afternoon.
But after each leader huddled with his respective party on Sunday, there were few indications of the type of breakthrough needed to end the stalemate in the Senate. Republicans, though, did appear to relent on any demand to include chained CPI in a final deal (though GOP officials denied they had ever seriously proposed it in the first place).
"We have as a conference have come out and said, if that's a show-stopper for the majority leader, we take that off the table," New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte said following the meeting with fellow Republicans.