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TheStreet Open House

Fiscal Cliff Deal Would Pale Against Expectations

"The offers that I've made to them have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me," Obama said.

Boehner disagreed, saying Sunday that the president had been unwilling to agree to anything "that would require him to stand up to his own party."

The trimmed ambitions of today are a far cry from the upbeat bipartisan rhetoric of just six weeks ago, when the leadership of Congress went to the White House to set the stage for negotiations to come.

But the deal under discussion Sunday appeared unlikely to settle other outstanding issues, including the sequester, which would total more than $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years, divided equally between the Pentagon and other government agencies. And off the table completely is an extension of the nation's borrowing limit, which the government is on track to reach any day but which the Treasury can put off through accounting measures for about two months.

That means Obama and the Congress are already on a new collision path. Republicans say they intend to use the debt ceiling as leverage to extract more spending cuts from the president. Obama has been adamant that unlike 2011, when the country came close to defaulting on its debts, he will not yield to those Republican demands.

Meanwhile, a senior defense official said if the sequester were triggered, the Pentagon would soon begin notifying its 800,000 civilian employees that they should expect some furloughs â¿¿ mandatory unpaid leave, not layoffs. It would then take some time for the furloughs to begin being implemented, said the official, who requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the internal preparations.

Lawmakers have until the new Congress convenes to pass any compromise, and even the calendar matters. Democrats said they had been told House Republicans might reject a deal until after Jan. 1, to avoid a vote to raise taxes before they had technically gone up, and then vote to cut taxes after they had risen.

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