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Senators Bicker Over Fiscal Cliff

"It is time to get back to the table," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.). "And I hope if anyone sees these representatives from the House in line shopping or getting their Christmas turkey, they wish them a merry Christmas, they're civil, and then say go back to the table, not your own table, the table in Washington."

Predicted Lieberman: "We're going to spend New Year's Eve here I believe."

Obama already has scaled back his ambitions for a sweeping budget bargain. Before leaving the capital on Friday, he called for a limited measure that extend George W. Bush-era tax cuts for most people and stave off federal spending cuts. The president also urged Congress to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed that would otherwise be cut off for 2 million people at the end of the year.

"The truth of the matter is, if we do fall off the cliff after the president is inaugurated, he'll come back, propose just what he proposed ... in leaving Washington and we'll end up adopting it, but why should we put the markets in such turmoil and the people misunderstanding or lack of confidence," said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.). "Why not go ahead and act now?

Obama's announcement late Friday suggested that a smaller deal may rest in the Senate, given the failure of Boehner's option in the House.

"The ball is now clearly with the Senate," said Lieberman.

He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky "have the ability to put this together again and pass something. It won't be a big, grand bargain to take care of the total debt, but they can do some things that will avoid the worst consequences going over the fiscal cliff."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said she expects "it is going to be a patch because in four days we can't solve everything."

It was only a week ago when news emerged that Obama and Boehner had significantly narrowed their differences. Both were offering a cut in taxes for most Americans, an increase for a relative few and cuts of roughly $1 trillion in spending over a year. Also included was a scaling back of future cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients -- a concession on the president's part as much as agreeing to higher tax rates was for the speaker.

Lieberman was on CNN's "State of the Union," while Barrasso and Conrad appeared on "Fox News Sunday." Klobuchar and Isakson were on "Fox News Sunday," while Hutchison was on CBS' "Face the Nation."

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