Let the endgames begin.
After a Christmas holiday, President Barack Obama returned to Washington from Hawaii and the U.S. Senate reconvened Thursday as the deadline approached for going over the fiscal cliff of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts.
However, the House remained on Christmas break, with members warned they could be called back on 48 hours' notice if needed.
Hopes for a so-called grand bargain that would address the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt appeared dashed for now, with four days remaining to reach agreement on a smaller plan that would avoid the harshest effects of the fiscal cliff's tax increases and slashed spending.
With House Republicans unable to resolve the impasse, the focus shifted to the Democratic majority in the Senate to come up with a way forward that could pass the House and get signed into law by Obama.
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Negotiations on a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff got a jump-start on Monday with House Republicans offering a counter-proposal to President Barack Obama, but continuing to reject his call for higher tax rates on the wealthy.
The GOP proposal would result in $2.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade, including $800 billion from tax reform, $600 billion from Medicare reforms and other health savings, and $600 billion in other spending cuts, House GOP leadership aides told reporters.
House Speaker John Boehner called it a "credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House."
The move followed a weekend of accusations by both sides that the other was not serious about reaching a deal to avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to take effect January 1 - what is known as the fiscal cliff that economists say will damage U.S. growth.
There was no immediate response to the Republican plan, which congressional aides said would be sent in a letter to the White House.FULL STORY
Four key GOP senators who have announced their support for a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal are prepared to join Democrats in voting to let the bill proceed, as long as Congress first deals with a measure to fund the government, aides to the four said Friday.
The aides said Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown will vote Saturday to end debate on the ban on openly gay and lesbian people in the military if the Senate passes a stopgap spending bill, a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
The four have previously said that bill must be approved first.
The Senate is currently working to craft a temporary spending bill, made necessary after Democratic leadership pulled a $1 trillion spending bill after Republicans abandoned their support of it.
The four senators' support for the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal would ensure the 60 votes needed to clear the way for the bill to advance even if Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, votes against it, as is expected.FULL STORY
Gen. David Petraeus told CNN's Dana Bash Thursday that "it's a privilege to serve" as the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan. But "it's very sad that I have to assume it in this manner. We obviously all have enormous respect and gratitude to Gen. McChrystal for all that he did. He's played a key role in helping get the inputs right in Afghanistan."
[Updated at 9:52 a.m.] Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell said the group has been the only one bringing "major national attention" to Congressman Bart Stupak and believes his apparent decision to retire reflects his movement's clout.
Russell said Stupak had been "well-aware" that the Express has been "barnstorming" the state's Upper Peninsula to raise "awareness" of what he called the congressman's "duplicitous conduct."
[Posted at 8:34 a.m.] Nine-term Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan will reveal Friday he is retiring from Congress, several Democratic sources close to Stupak tell CNN.