Washington (CNN) – Multiple congressional Democratic sources tell CNN that a compromise to extend all Bush-era tax cuts temporarily is getting close, and that there is increasing concern among Democratic lawmakers that the White House will not fight hard enough to get Democratic priorities in return.
"The goose is cooked," said one senior Democratic source, "the question is what the larger deal is going to look like."
Many Democrats are unhappy at the prospect of giving up on their goal of permanently extending tax cuts only for those making $250,000 and less. Sources in both parties say a deal in the works would extend all expiring Bush era tax cuts for all income levels for two or three years.
In exchange, Democrats are hoping to squeeze out of Republicans a wish list of concessions. Democratic sources say that list generally includes: A lengthy extension of unemployment benefits, without having to find offsets to pay for them; extending college tuition tax credits set to expire at the end of the year; extending the so-called "make work pay" tax credits also expiring December 31st; and the HIRE act, tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed workers.
Democratic sources, who declined to talk on the record about private deliberations, say there is widespread Democratic concern that the White House will not push hard enough on those issues and, in the words of a senior Democratic source, "cave on our priorities."
"This is the first fight of 2012," said the Democratic source, who said many Democrats worry the White House will set an early tone that they're willing to give in too much to Republicans.
Another Democratic source said Democrats are simply facing reality.
"No one wants to leave here without extending the tax cuts, the question is what are we getting in return for doing that. I don't know how much of an appetite there is for a long and drawn out fight. The calendar is not our friend," said this Democratic source.
Democratic senators were meeting Thursday afternoon about this and other issues.
West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, emerging from the meeting, said he personally was concerned about the White House giving in too much, and heard similar sentiments from colleagues behind closed doors
"There is lot swirling around. There are a lot of concerns, a lot of economic concerns, and a lot of political realities," Rockefeller said. When pressed as to whether he was personally concerned he replied: "Yes."
Although the START arms control treaty is not officially part of any discussions, a Democratic source also says they are hoping an agreement on taxes will get a "wink, wink, nod, nod," from Republican Arizona Senator Jon Kyl on moving forward with treaty ratification.
In addition to substantive issues Kyl has with the treaty, he has been demanding ample time for debate.
Interestingly, so far these detailed discussions do not appear to have taken place in the formal bipartisan tax cut negotiations set up by President Obama and congressional leaders, according to sources familiar with the talks.
One Democratic source close to the talks called it a "side show," while others said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, and other leaders have been talking directly to each other, and to the White House.