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A Big Disconnect As 'fiscal Cliff' Clock Ticks

Given the crunch of time and the complexity of issues such as tax reform and wringing savings from programs like Medicare, negotiators are working on a two-track process: an initial "down payment" of deficit cuts next month, coupled with work next year on overhauling the tax code and curbing entitlement programs.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a leading Senate liberal and a member of Obama's special 2010 deficit panel â¿¿ which drafted a bold deficit reduction plan blending painful entitlement cuts with $2 trillion in higher tax revenues â¿¿ weighed in with a demand that any short-term down payment avoid politically sensitive safety net programs.

"Progressives should be willing to talk about ways to ensure the long-term viability of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but those conversations should not be part of a plan to avert the fiscal cliff," Durbin said in a speech at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank in Washington.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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