It’s Falling Apart

From “‘Major setback’ in fiscal cliff talks,” Manu Raju and John Bresnahan, Politico:

“Negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have suffered a ‘major setback’ after Republicans demanded the inclusion of a new method for calculating entitlement benefits as part of the fiscal cliffpackage, according to Democratic sources.

“The provision, known as ‘chained CPI,’ is opposed by many progressives because it would result in lower payments for Social Security beneficiaries.

“Democrats are objecting to including this as part of the current negotiations on a scaled-down fiscal cliff deal. They say they’ve already given ground on other issues, including raising the threshold for new taxes to around $400,000 annually, as well as showing flexibility on estate taxes, sources said.

“But Republicans are insisting on the ‘chained CPI’ provision in exchange for raising taxes.

“If no deal is reached — and that’s where things stand at the moment — Reid will push a proposal to raise taxes for those families making over $250,000 in income, though Republicans say that stands little chance of passing both chambers before New Year’s Day. With no deal, about $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts would take effect in 2013, a double-dose of austerity that could send the economy back into recession.”

The stock market won’t be happy, and when the stock market ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

C-Span to Replace the Late Dick Clark

Reid and McConnell have given themselves a deadline of tomorrow afternoon to come up with a plan, which they intend to present to their respective caucuses around 3 P. M.

If it seems as if they have the votes to pass the thing, there will be a vote on Monday afternoon, and then it goes to the House, and the ball is back in Boehner’s court, where it always seems to get stuck in the net.

I don’t know if there will be funny hats in the House on New Year’s Eve, but there will definitely be a lot of noise makers with R’s after their names.

Anybody remember ever watching C-Span on New Year’s?

Half a Cliff

As we watch this final whirl of energy to deal with the cliff, bear in mind that whatever happens, we’re going over at least half the cliff.  They’re not even trying to deal with the sequester, so the automatic spending cuts in defense and domestic spending won’t be stopped before January 1.

All they are working on right now is the tax side of the cliff.

And the debt ceiling?  Fuhgeddaboudit.  It’s not even on the table.





Madly Spinning

With the emphasis on madly…

Charles Krauthammer has gotten a lot of press for his comment to Sean Hannity that Obama is trying to provoke a “civil war” in the GOP.

Now pretend that Bush is president, that the Dems control the House, and that the GOP has a majority in the Senate, but not a filibuster-proof one.

What would Krauthammer say if Bush was trying to keep us from going over the cliff?

He wouldn’t say Bush was trying to provoke a civil war among Dems, he’d praise him for trying to reach out to what he’d call the “reasonable” Dems, who weren’t “crazy, far-left types with San Francisco values.”

Bush would be heroically trying to save the country, while the Kenyan Muslim Socialist is heinously trying to destroy it.

We need intelligent policy debates about the right level of taxing and spending, but all we’re getting is stupid personality attacks.

How It Looks to the Country

As we wait to see what, if anything, Reid and McConnell concoct today on the fiscal cliff they helped build, here’s how it looks to a normal person who isn’t a member of Congress.  It looks as if the GOP is saying, “Heads we win, tails you lose.”

The Dems have a majority in the Senate, and should be able to pass something without any GOP votes, but if there’s a filibuster, a majority isn’t good enough, you need 60 votes, and therefore GOP support.  So the GOP can block a vote in the Senate even though they are a minority.

Turning to the House, although the Dems are in the minority, they should be able to pass something by getting their members, plus about 10% of the GOP members.  But just as McConnell can prevent something from coming to a vote, so can Boehner refuse to bring the bill to the floor.  He can invoke the Hastert Rule, which holds that nothing comes up for a vote in the House unless it’s supported by a majority of the majority.    So Boehner can prevent a bill from passing with mostly Dem and some GOP support.

The GOP can certainly work its will here, but it’s a tyrannous will that goes against what the country clearly wants and needs.


Mitch and John — Statesmen or Politicians?

From “The Republicans’ Moment of Truth,” Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast:

“So this all falls entirely on the shoulders of McConnell and Boehner.  Obamahas done plenty of compromising, especially for the guy who won the election. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are behind him. So the Democrats are ready to play ball.

“The only thing the Republicans are ready to play, as usual, is roulette, with the cocked gun against the country’s temple, unfortunately, and not their own. It’s worth taking a moment in this context to consider: Never have the priorities for survival and success of a major party’s Washington politicians been so utterly at odds with the priorities required for the country’s survival and success. These Washington Republicans represent the one-third of the country that hates government, despises Obama, and considers obstruction victory.

“The rational two-thirds wants compromise, good-faith bargaining, higher taxes on the wealthy, a reasonably strong safety net, and lower defense spending. But the obstructionist one-third wants the opposite. McConnell and Boehner aren’t ideologically committed to that one-third in the way that Jim DeMint and Paul Ryan are, but so far, they have never once stood up to it for the country’s sake. We’ll find out this weekend who they really are.”  Emphasis added.