TODAY   |  December 07, 2012

GOP signals softening on some tax rates

While the country waits to see if Washington can find a solution to the fiscal cliff crisis,  two retiring moderate Republicans urge their side to make a deal, especially on the issue of taxes. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>> looming fiscal cliff. 25 days until the deadline, and there's a lot of tough talk, but a few hints at compromise now. nbc's kelly o'donnell is on capitol hill for us. kelly , good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, willie. well, i'm told that the lines of communication are open between speaker boehner and the president, but nothing new this morning. and while their conversations are happening privately, very publicly there's daily political theater intended to ramp up public support or pressure and to drive home the competing positions, especially on taxes. going for the picture of what this fiscal fight means to the middle class .

>> a couple of thousand dollars means a couple months rent.

>> reporter: president obama sat with the santana family in their suburban virginia apartment thursday, holding firm.

>> just to be clear, i'm not going to sign any package that somehow prevents the top rate from going up for folks at the top 2%.

>> reporter: republican leadership is just as determined to keep all tax rates , including the high end , from going up, but a few cracks in that anti-tax armor have started to show.

>> i don't believe we need tax increases, any, but if we do, we have to ask ourselves where are we going to apply them.

>> reporter: the shift among just a few republicans publicly is about changing expectations, to reti two retiring republicans said his party will have to accept high-end rates will go up.

>> everybody in washington knows what the answer is. it's really not a secret. you just have to get enough people to accept the answer and get this thing done.

>> reporter: maine republican senator olimpia snowe said her gop colleagues should jump on the chance to help the middle class by keeping their rates the same and then focus the fight on other conservative priorities, like spending cuts.

>> i think that republicans have to come to some resolution on the question of the tax rates , and the president has to address the issue of the spending cuts and entitlement reform.

>> reporter: so might that be some kind of a road map for how a deal could be reached? most republicans still say they don't want to see higher rates but would make some changes to deductions to bring more money into the government, and many say there's been just too much focus on taxes and not enough on some of the other complicated priorities like spending cuts and like the government's ability to borrow known as the debt ceiling. that's its own fight. willie, savannah?

>> kelly o'donnell on capitol hill ,