Biden: Dems ready to compromise on 'fiscal cliff'

WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - Vice President Joe Biden says he and President Barack Obama are anxious to move forward on a bipartisan solution to the looming "fiscal cliff" that could force tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts next year.

Biden told reporters Wednesday the real question is what Republicans in Congress will do now that Democrats will keep control of the White House and the Senate. Republicans will stay in charge of the House.

Biden said he believes at least six Republican senators are prepared to compromise. He said Democrats will have to compromise, too.

Said Biden: "It's not like we're going to go in and say, 'This is our deal. Take it or leave it.'"

Biden spoke to reporters aboard Air Force Two as he flew from Chicago to his home in Delaware.

At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that asking wealthier people to pay higher taxes needs to be part of any solution to the government's budget woes.

The Nevada Democrat told reporters in Washington he's "not for kicking the can down the road" and that any solution should include higher taxes on "the richest of the rich."

The fiscal cliff is the one-two punch of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs that could total $800 billion next year, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates.

It's is the most immediate item confronting President Barack Obama and a divided Congress in a post-election lame duck session. Economists say it threatens to push the economy back into recession if Obama and Republicans can't forge a deal to prevent it.

"The vast majority of the American people - rich, poor, everybody agrees - the richest of the rich have to help a little bit," Reid said.

The election victory has given Obama new leverage in the upcoming showdown with House Republicans controlling over fiscal issues.

But a rejuvenated Obama still confronts a re-elected House GOP majority that stands in powerful opposition to his promise to raise tax rates on upper-bracket earners, although House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has left the door open for other forms of new revenue as part of a deal to tackle the spiraling national debt.

"The American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates," Boehner said Tuesday night. "What Americans want are solutions that will ease the burden on small businesses, bring jobs home, and let our economy grow. We stand ready to work with any willing partner - Republican, Democrat, or otherwise - who shares a commitment to getting these things done."

The Ohio Republican is scheduled to address the issue Wednesday afternoon.

Going off the "fiscal cliff" would mean massive cuts in military and civilian spending.

Government Contractor John Hulen's livelihood could be on the chopping block.

"It will affect my job and my business," Hulen said.

Sequestration would also result in a big increase in taxes for the rich and{ } working families alike.

Heather Elggren, who is visiting the D.C. area, said, "Any increase in taxes is gonna make it harder to be able to pay mortgage and be able to take care of the family."

The metro area will feel the sting from the fall of the fiscal cliff more than any other part of the country since the lion share of spending cuts will be leveled here. Large contractors, like CACI, will be affected.

"It will hit us hard. It will cost us about $65,000 federal jobs right off the top," Dr. Steve Fuller, an economist at George Mason University, said.

Fuller said the reduction in military and civilian spending will spread across the local economy.

Grace Deitemyer of Rockville is hopeful as the fiscal cliff nears that Congress and the White House will forge a budget deal.

"I just think that wisdom will eventually prevail, because they will be experiencing it along with their families too," Deitemyer said.

Reid added he anticipates addressing the need to increase the government's borrowing cap early next year and not in the post-election session of Congress.

Some economists and political leaders think we should go off the fiscal cliff as it would be the best way back to a solid economy. But Fuller explained that's like getting the six-pack abs you want via a starvation diet.