WASHINGTON – The deal in Congress to avert the “fiscal cliff” was proving elusive Sunday as a deadline to avert tax hikes on virtually every American worker and block sweeping spending cuts set to strike the Defence Department and other federal agencies grew perilously near.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell remained at odds on such key issues as the income threshold for higher tax rates and how to deal with inheritance taxes, among other issues. McConnell complained that Reid had yet to respond to a Republican offer made Saturday evening and reached out to Vice-President Joe Biden, a longtime friend and former senator, in hopes of breaking the impasse.