“We know that when McConnell has hit a wall with Reid, he calls Joe Biden to get some more candy,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the vice president.

It was a good-cop, bad-cop routine that Reid wanted no part of. “We thought it was unnecessary,” the aide said of Biden’s involvement. “We had a lot of leverage.”…

Reid was playing hardball. With polls showing that the public was far more likely to blame congressional Republicans than the president if the nation jumped off the fiscal cliff – and billions in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts went into effect – Reid rightfully knew that McConnell wanted a deal – and badly.

Reid felt that he’d compromised enough, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide with knowledge of the discussions and the senator’s thinking. Besides, if no accord was reached, Obama and Reid had said they’d push the president’s plan to stop tax hikes for those earning below $250,000 and extend unemployment insurance to the floor. Republicans could block that and be responsible for everyone’s taxes spiking at their own peril.