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(NECN/NBC News: Steve Handelsman) - With the fiscal cliff creeping closer, the White House on Monday took a hard line: Insisting tax rates have to rise on the rich and warning that any more delay on a deal could ruin consumer confidence and hurt holiday retail sales that started with a roar on Black Friday.
There were signs of compromise on Capitol Hill, with leaders on both sides agreeing to more tax revenue from the rich. But there is still a fight over hiking rates.
Back from Thanksgiving, senators are on the sidelines as the fiscal cliff looms closer.
"Really, we just have to make some tough decisions,” said Senator Bob Corker.
It's the House that has the ball.
"I don't care if you raise taxes 100 percent on the wealthy -- you are not going to fix
the deficit problem,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Cantor is talking tough, but Republicans are open to new revenue because of the new reality.
"Well, the president got reelected and we know at the end of this year, taxes
are going up on everybody,” Cantor said.
Some Republicans agree: The rich should pay more, but just by reducing deductions. Democrats still say rates ought to rise on the rich.
"The president has made clear that he will not sign a bill that extends the Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $250,000,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Billionaire Warren Buffett, an Obama ally, again backed a rate hike on the rich, calling, in The New York Times, for a minimum tax for the wealthy.
“I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that,” Buffett wrote in an op-ed.
Republicans insist that any deal on tax hikes has to come after a commitment to control spending on Medicare and Social Security.
Adding to the drama: The White House warned on Monday that the strong start to holiday retail sales could be spoiled by fears of a tax hike.