Agonizingly close to a New Year's Eve compromise, the White House and congressional Republicans agreed Monday to block across-the-board tax increases set for midnight, but held up a final deal as they haggled away the final hours of 2012 in a dispute over spending cuts.
"It appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year's tax hike is within sight," President Barack Obama said in an early-afternoon status report on negotiations. "But it's not done."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell - shepherding final talks with Vice President Joe Biden - agreed with Obama that an overall deal was near. In remarks on the Senate floor, he suggested Congress move quickly to pass tax legislation and "continue to work on finding smarter ways to cut spending" next year.
The House will miss the midnight Monday deadline lawmakers set for voting to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
House Republicans notified lawmakers that the chamber will vote Monday evening on other bills. They say that will be their only votes of the day.
It remained unclear whether the Senate would vote Monday.
While the deadline to prevent tax increases and spending cuts was technically midnight, passage of legislation by the time a new Congress takes office at noon on Jan. 3, 2013 - the likely timetable - would eliminate or minimize any inconvenience for taxpayers.