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Cliff looms: Kicking the Can, Washington-style

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, to discuss the pending fiscal cliff. Boehner said there's been no progress in negotiations on how to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts and called on President Barack Obama to come up with a new offer.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, to discuss the pending fiscal cliff. Boehner said there's been no progress in negotiations on how to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts and called on President Barack Obama to come up with a new offer.

WASHINGTON — When it comes to the nation's budget challenges, congressional leaders are fond of saying dismissively they don't want to kick the can down the road.

But now, a deadline hard ahead, even derided half-measures are uncertain as President Barack Obama and lawmakers struggle to avert across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts that comprise an economy-threatening fiscal cliff.

Congressional officials said Wednesday they knew of no significant strides toward a compromise over a long Christmas weekend, and no negotiations have been set.

The Senate is due in session Thursday, although the immediate agenda includes legislation setting the rules for government surveillance of suspected spies and terrorists abroad, including Americans, as well as a measure providing $60 billion for victims of Super Storm Sandy.

Obama decided to cut short his Hawaii vacation for an overnight flight expected to get him back to the White House in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday.

After weeks of negotiations, the president urged lawmakers late last week to scale back their ambitions and send him legislation preventing tax cuts on all but the highest-earning Americans and extending unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. Longer, term, he said he still supports deficit cuts that were key to the earlier talks.

"Everybody's got to give a little bit in a sensible way," he said at the White House.

The House has no plans to convene, following last week's rebellion in which conservatives torpedoed Speaker John Boehner's legislation to prevent scheduled tax increases on most, while letting them take effect on million-dollar wage earners.

"How we get there, God only knows," the Ohio Republican said of efforts to protect the economy — and taxpayers — from the tax increases and spending cuts.

"Now is the time to show leadership, not kick the can down the road," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a little over a week ago after Boehner announced he would shift his own focus from bipartisan talks to the approach that eventually was torpedoed by his own rank and file.

It's a phrase that political leaders use when they want to suggest others want to avoid tackling major problems, and one that Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and even Obama as well as Reid have used.

"We have a spending problem. We have to address it, And we're not going to address it by kicking the can down the road," the speaker said at a news conference late last week when he was asked about setting a vote on a plan that Democrats find acceptable.

Cantor recently used the same approach in challenging Obama to agree to savings from Medicare and other benefit programs. "This has to be a part of this agreement or else we just continue to dig the hole deeper, asking folks to allow us to kick the can down the road further and that we don't want to do," he said on Nov. 28.

In fact, it's a phrase that has been in use for over a year as Obama and Republicans jockey for position on pocketbook issues.

In July, 2011, when he was struggling with Republicans over the threat of a first-ever government default, Obama said he had "heard reports that there may be some in Congress who want to do just enough to make sure that America avoids defaulting on our debt in the short term. But then wants to kick the can down the road when it comes to solving the larger problem, our deficit."

A few months later, an extension of a payroll tax cut was the issue, and Boehner was insisting on a year-long renewal rather than the temporary plan that passed the Senate with votes from lawmakers in both parties.

"How can you do tax policy for two months?" he asked on Dec. 18, 2011. "I believe that two months is just kicking the can down the road.

"The American people are tired of that."

At issue now is series of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to kick in with the new year that economists caution could send the economy into a recession.

Obama wants to let higher rates apply to upper incomes, but when Boehner relented and tried to pass legislation setting the threshold at $1 million — higher than Democrats want — Republicans refused.

Less than two months ago, all sides expressed optimism about far more than dealing with the expiring tax cuts.

The plan then was also to forge a compromise that would also replace about $500 billion in spending cuts aimed at the Pentagon and a variety of domestic accounts with a series of targeted reductions.

Comments

waltspecht 2 years ago

The Cowards don't want to take any blame by taking action. They want to be able to blame the process. We really know how to pick our leaders don't we.

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Cartman 2 years ago

Stay in Hawaii. I'd rather see the Fiscal Cliff than whatever "deal" gets worked out in D.C.

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bubbasmithredneck 2 years ago

The Republicans are so stupid and stubborn...they would rather sink their own country than use common sense and do whats best. Its simply because they lost the election and dont like the President.....but that is no reason to sink a Nation over politics. Everybody has to give a little to save the nation, so do it and keep it moving.

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Somebody 2 years ago

Why couldn't Obama give in a little? Why do republicans have to be the ones that give in? Obama just wants the republicans to give in so that he can throw away more money.

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FryarTuk 2 years ago

It's not just the Republicans. Obama is responsible in part. He could have resolved this issue 18 months ago with a full scale economic plan and budget which he did not offer because he needed the uneasy economy for his re-election. The extremist right are taking their revenge. In 2 years if the economy tanks it will be hung around the necks of Obama and the Democrats like a millstone. Jes you wait.

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Jimboob 2 years ago

The republicans will let us go over the cliff... Then agree to tax cuts so they won't be accused of voting to raise taxes. We would call them a pack of weasels where I come from.

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Somebody 2 years ago

Obama is doing his part to put us over the cliff as well. Typical dumbocrat, always pointing the finger at the other guys.

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bubbasmithredneck 2 years ago

I'm so glad they lost. Can you imagine how screwed up it would be if they had won?

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chinaberry25 2 years ago

Look around, we are already screwed up.

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Somebody 2 years ago

It has been said Obama would drive this country over the cliff and here we are.

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Trustbuster 2 years ago

They need to order Starbucks coffee. On the cups it says "come together" in order to avoid the cliff.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years ago

If you're stupid enough to believe that a 2% popular vote margin is a "MANDATE" then you're very, very stupid.

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Jimboob 2 years ago

George W. didn't have any popular vote margin yet took us into 2 wars and cut taxes because he had a "MANDATE". It all depends on which side of the mandate you are on. If you feel it's more important for rich people to pay less and poor people to take cuts then you won't see it as a mandate.

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RedEric 2 years ago

We will go over the cliff unless Obama gets the power to raise the debt limit on his own. That will take control from the house. The downside of the cliff is that a few thousand combat veterans will be out of a job and left without financial help because we give to much welfare to illegals.

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Jimboob 2 years ago

Tax cuts for the rich had nothing to do with any of this... Right?

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Jax 2 years ago

I am so tired of that line; under Bush, everyone that paid taxes received a tax cut, not just rich people. The $ amount was higher for the rich because they pay more in taxes.

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FryarTuk 2 years ago

I wish I had thought of that. Well, the stock market will definitely sink for a while and my suggestion is deal the rascals back and make some money. Watch C, BAC, KO, HD, GRMN when they hit their lowest points (or near) buy them and hold them. Great companies, good profits. Stock prices really geared to consuming public and money supply (and news, particularly positive). Just a hint watchem if you don't believe me. I passed along this tip about a month ago and BAC and C went up big, KO fluctuated, HD went up strongly and GRMN favorably advanced. Wait until the deals fall through and let them sink. You will increase your portfolio because America is still a super strong country inspite of the extremists' inability to govern.

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FlunkyMonkey 2 years ago

Does it matter whose fault it is? Your fault, my fault, everybody's fault, nobody's fault. Tired of being held hostage by those in Washington who are so far removed from the American people they don't recognize us anymore.

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waltspecht 2 years ago

Spoken like a true follower of Jacob McCandles in Big Jake. Another good John Wayne quote that is appropriate is "You can't fix stupid"

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missdaisy 2 years ago

Typical foolish liberal blather. Our pompos, petulant Prez. is showing another level to his incompetence. We do not have a problem with enough revenue coming in; we have a problem of corrupt, inefficient, wasteful spending by everyone at the federal level. Return the federal government to its intended limited purpose. As long as a significant number of people vote for the candidate that provides them with the most free stuff, this is what we get. Maybe we are beyond the point of a rational, individually responsible citizenry and on the way to a Greece-like parasitic, entitlement-addicted culture. If so, God help our Republic, the present administration surely won't.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years ago

Watch out, missdaisy......Carlton Fletcher will call you a Racist.

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mas39866 2 years ago

There is no cliff. The press is being lied to by both parties. This is a deal worked out long in advanced so that the Democrats get the tax increase they want and the Republicans get the budget cuts they want and everyone gets to save face. Nothing will stop. Government will go on. Checks will continue to be printed. And the beauty of it all is that each party has a scapegoat to blame when they talk to their constituents.

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Jimboob 2 years ago

Quick! Somebody help me! This man has got it figured out!

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oldster 2 years ago

It seems on the surface that if we go over the "fiscal cliff" it would give many of the democrats what they want, and that is higher taxes and mandatory cuts in military spending, and they can try to blame it on someone else.

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