Fiscal Cliff Talks Hit 'Major Setback'


By Jonathan Oh

WASHINGTON (ABC NEWS) -- With less than two days remaining for Congress to reach a budget agreement that would avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," ABC News has learned that negotiations have reached a "major setback."

According to Democratic sources the row was sparked when the GOP offered a proposal that included a new method of calculating entitlement benefits with inflation. Called the "chained consumer price index," or Chained CPI, the strategy has been criticized by some Democrats because it would lower cost of living increases for Social Security recipients.

"We thought it was mutually understood that it was off the table for a scaled-back deal," an aide said. "It's basically a poison pill."

President Obama has floated chained CPI in the past as part of a grand bargain, despite opposition from the AARP and within his own party.

Also in the Republican plan brought today: An extension of the current estate tax and no increase in the debt ceiling. Higher income earners would see their taxes increase, but at levels "well above $250,000," the sources said.

That "major setback" in the talks was evident on the floor of the Senate this afternoon.

"I'm concerned about the lack of urgency here, I think we all know we are running out of time," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, "I want everyone to know I am willing to get this done, but I need a dance partner."

McConnell said he submitted the Republican's latest offer to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at 7:10 pm last night and was willing to work through the night. Reid promised to get back to him at 10 this morning, but has yet to do so.

For website readers, click here to read more from ABC News.

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