Top senators from both parties indicated Sunday that a deal was likely soon on temporarily extending Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, along with unemployment benefits that have expired.
However, Republican senators made clear they are unlikely to budge in their opposition to other Democratic priorities in the final weeks of the lame-duck session of Congress that ends in early January.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told the NBC program "Meet the Press" he was "optimistic" about an agreement on the tax rates and jobless benefits, but added there likely wasn't time for the Senate to ratify a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia or complete work on a major defense bill that includes repeal of the "don't ask, don' tell" policy banning openly gay and lesbian soldiers.
Democrats, stymied by the ability of Senate Republicans to filibuster their agenda, shot back with angry words.
"I hope Americans will understand how craven and empty and hollow and contradictory the Republican position is," veteran Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, told CNN.
The posturing and rhetoric reflects the changed political equation in Washington in the aftermath of the November congressional elections described by President Barack Obama as a "shellacking" for Democrats, with Republican recapturing control of the House and narrowing the Democratic majority in the Senate.
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