Dec. 31 Photo Brief: Fiscal cliff plan emerges, why 2012 was the worst year for elephants, 2013 celebrations

14 photos

Fiscal cliff plan emerges in U.S. Congress, why 2012 was the worst year for elephants, 2013 celebrations and more in today’s daily photo brief.

‘Fiscal cliff’ tumble looms despite Senate efforts
Richard Cowan and Roberta Rampton
4:54 p.m. EST, December 31, 2012

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States looked on track to tumble over the “fiscal cliff” at midnight on Monday, at least for a day, as lawmakers remained reluctant to back last-minute efforts by Senate leaders to avert severe tax increases and spending cuts.

The U.S. House of Representatives might not vote on any “fiscal cliff” plan before midnight, possibly pushing a legislative decision into New Year’s Day, when financial markets will be closed, said a Republican aide.

The Senate plan was heavy on tax increases and light on spending cuts, raising concerns that it would repel rank-and-file lawmakers, particularly in the Republican-controlled House.

As Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden kept working on unresolved parts of the deal, there was deep discontent among Senate Democrats.

“The caucus as a whole is not sold” on the proposal, said a Senate Democratic aide. “We just don’t have the votes for it.”

If Congress fails to act, about $600 billion in tax increases and government-wide spending cuts will begin taking effect after midnight, harsh measures that could push the U.S. economy into recession.

But lawmakers could still vote for any deal on New Year’s Day and prevent the worst of the fiscal cliff effect.

Under the Senate plan, those with household income above $450,000 or individual income above $400,000 would be taxed at 39.6 percent, up from 35 percent. Those with lower income would be taxed at the current, reduced tax rates put in place under former President George W. Bush.

Read More.