Empty U.S. House chambers.
With the country teetering on this fiscal cliff of deep spending cuts and sharp tax hikes, the philosophical differences, the shortened timetable and the political dynamics appear to be insurmountable hurdles for a bipartisan deal by New Year’s Day.
Hopes of a grand-bargain – to shave trillions of dollars off the deficit by cutting entitlement programs and raising revenue – are shattered. House Republicans already failed to pass their “Plan B” proposal. And now aides and senators say the White House’s smaller, fall-back plan floated last week is a non-starter among Republicans in Senate – much less the House.
On top of that, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday that the nation would hit the debt limit on Dec. 31, and would then have to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid exhausting the government’s borrowing limit in the New Year.
Adds the Washington Post:
If anything, hope for success appeared to have dimmed over the Christmas holiday. The Republican-controlled House last week abdicated responsibility for resolving the crisis, leaving all eyes on the Senate. But senior aides in both parties said Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have not met or even spoken since leaving town for the weekend…
With no sign of urgency, aides in both parties predicted that failure was not just a possibility – it was rapidly becoming the most likely outcome. No significant movement was expected Thursday: Obama was scheduled to be in the air traveling back from his Hawaiian holiday for a good portion of the day, and the Senate wasn’t set to convene for votes until the evening.
Even if some miraculous breakthrough in the Senate could be achieved, another round of winter weather in the Washington, D.C. area this weekend could well disrupt air travel, making it difficult for House members to reconvene in time for a vote before the new year–and that assumes the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is a body capable of passing anything the President would be able to sign. After the failure before Christmas by Speaker John Boehner to pass his “Plan B” alternative measure, a red-on-red disaster abetted by at least two Colorado Republican members of Congress, dysfunction seems to be the rule.
The public is becoming increasingly, undeniably aware of who is to blame for the impasse, as a poll released yesterday shows once again–Huffington Post reports:
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats got a moderate boost in approval ratings for their handling of the crisis. Obama’s rating on the negotiations rose to a majority 54 percent, while approval for Democratic leaders in Congress jumped to 45 percent. Republicans did not see similar gains, with their number holding nearly steady at 26 percent. [Pols emphasis]
Any shift in approval didn’t appear to affect the desire for bipartisan deal-making. Just 22 percent of people said either side should stick to its principles, while 68 percent called for a compromise.
And this is the key: President Barack Obama has already compromised. A casual look at the offers the President has made, both increasing the threshold of income at which higher tax rates would apply, as well as offering entitlement rate-of-growth cuts that have genuinely upset liberal Democrats, and there’s no question which side has offered more to get a deal. We don’t really think the administration can offer much more without putting itself in a situation similar to that faced by Boehner–a fact made even clearer by the intense public opposition to cutting institutions like Social Security and Medicare. One small upshot is that as the scale of what can be achieved with an intransigent GOP-controlled House diminishes, so do the cuts.
Politically, it’s critical to understand that this is not 2009. There is no upwelling of conservative opposition brewing as was the case with the then-incipient “Tea Party.” The country has been through years of exactly this kind of obstruction and brinkmanship since Republicans retook control of the House in 2010. The voters want solutions. They are tired of rhetoric. What the polls show is a growing fatigue with Republican intransigence, and a growing understanding that it is Republican intransigence at the heart of much of their frustration with government.
It is not “bias” to acknowledge when one side is plainly losing.