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Spirit of compromise appears to awaken in Capitol

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 7:04 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Congress' rank and file — which will decide whether the nation avoids plummeting off a fiscal cliff in less than seven weeks — is showing a new willingness to negotiate and compromise, a message their leaders will carry on Friday to President Obama.

But they will warn in the first post-election White House talks aimed at crafting an agreement that those lawmakers have a shared history that has to be overcome. For the past two years, Washington has been paralyzed by partisanship, and the scars of the battles are still raw.

What's different now is that lawmakers heard the message from voters last week: Stop bickering and get the economy moving again. And don't wait to do something until hours before the Bush-era tax cuts expire Dec. 31 and automatic spending cuts take effect two days later.

Senators and members of the House of Representatives are suggesting almost everything is negotiable — spending cuts, tax rates, Medicare, Medicaid — and there's widespread agreement any deal has to be a combination of cuts in spending and increases in tax revenues.

Even the most contentious point, the top tax rates, appears to be on the table.

“People are really eager to get an agreement. I've rarely seen a mood like it,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

“There's a willingness to give serious consideration to new revenue that wasn't there before the election,” agreed Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

Lawmakers are listening to the voters. Two out of three Americans say that going over the fiscal cliff will have a mostly negative impact on the economy. Sixty percent say it would have a mostly negative impact on their own financial situation, according to a post-election poll by the Pew Research Center.

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