“It’s hard to overstate how little is going on,” said a senior Democratic leadership aide in the Senate, indicating what most lawmakers say in private: the country is likely to miss the Jan. 1 deadline…

“What is it, exactly, that we’re supposed to respond to or work with?” Mr. Stewart said. Referring to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, Mr. Stewart continued: “Reid is the majority leader. Maybe for once he could propose something that he actually thinks could pass.”…

The measure that Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders are considering would contain all the provisions of a tax bill that the Senate passed in July, according to a Democrat familiar with the discussions. That bill included an adjustment to the alternative minimum tax — a parallel income tax that is designed to make sure the affluent do not escape taxation but that is increasingly hitting the middle class — as well as several tax credits for middle- and low-income workers that are also due to expire.