Lawmakers' long weekend
December 5th, 2012
04:17 PM ET
2 years ago

Lawmakers' long weekend

Washington (CNN) - They're leaving.

With the nation heading full steam toward the $7 trillion fiscal cliff, the House of Representatives is taking a break without a deal in place yet to avert the mix of steep spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect in a matter of weeks.

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The rancor between the White House and the Republican leadership is so thick that there aren't even private talks taking place to address the issue.

With the cliff unresolved and negotiations in limbo, economists are now talking recession, financial markets are getting nervous, and ordinary Americans are taking stock of their finances.

Although polls suggest the public will more likely blame congressional Republicans if a deal isn't reached, lawmakers from the Republican-controlled House streamed out of the Capitol in a midweek scene that typically plays out on Fridays.

House GOP leaders said they sent their members home because there is nothing that requires a vote.

"I'll be here and I'll be available at any moment to sit down with (President Barack Obama) to get serious about solving this problem," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said during a news conference on Wednesday.

The move also sends a message to the White House: It's your move Mr. President.

Both Republicans and Democrats have expended effort taking the fiscal cliff messaging effort outside the Beltway. It started when the president asked his supporters to use social media to pressure their legislators to move on the fiscal cliff.

Then the president headed to Pennsylvania to hold a rally-style event to gather support for his fiscal cliff proposals. Finally, labor groups joined in asking their supporters to contact their representatives.

Republicans weren't too far behind.

The speaker's office announced shortly after the president began his PR effort that Republican members will roll out a series of events in Washington and in their districts across the country with small business owners to frame Democrats demands to oppose upper income tax cuts as a threat to new jobs.

That's just what they are headed home to do.

"The most pressing issue is clearly the fiscal cliff yet the president and his staff have not even directly responded to us on our letter to him," an aide to Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters.

"If the President is not serious about working to fix the problem, then Members will go back to their districts and meet with small business owners who would be negatively affected by the President's tax rate hikes," the aide said.

Both the stakes and egos are in huge in this game of chicken, political experts say.

"Both sides need to recognize there's not enough time to go big right now," said David Walker, former comptroller general of the United States who has advised lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on crafting a debt resolution. "You don't do grand bargains in even numbered years. The public has not been adequately prepared for the big sacrifices that have to be made."

Even as House lawmakers left town, leadership inched toward a deal.

Boehner acknowledged that taxes on the wealthy will have to increase-a nod to the political reality of the impact of Obama's re-election victory and public support for the higher taxes on that group. He also challenged Obama to sit down with him to hammer out a deal.

Obama, however, continued to insist on Republicans first ensuring no tax hike for anyone but the top 2% of Americans as a first step toward a broader agreement on tackling the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt.

We've been here before.

In 2009 members of congress were verbally pummeled by their constituents over health care reform when they returned to their home districts for the August recess.

And during the following midterm elections, voters showed lawmakers exactly what they though of that move by ushering in a new wave of tea party backed freshmen.

Two years later, it's business as usual.

Cantor has said the chamber won't adjourn for the holidays until a workable solution to the fiscal cliff is in place.

In the meantime, there's only so much of the brinksmanship the public will tolerate.

Republicans might feel the pressure for negotiations to succeed, but the White House shouldn't be smug, Walker said.

"I don't think this was a mandate election at all," Walker said. "For anyone to say they have a clear mandate from the public I don't think is credible. The public is saying we're tired of the partisan bickering we want you to go to work and do your jobs."

– CNN's Dana Bash, Allison Brennan, Tom Cohen and Deidre Walsh contributed to this report.


Filed under: Congress • Fiscal Cliff
soundoff (137 Responses)
  1. jpmichigan

    The President is on the road again, promoting his , so call solutions to the fiscal problem. He uses the media , same way a family uses the newspaper to train a new puppy. He is unable to have a discussion face to face, for he is unable to compromise and neogotiate a solution. But, the question is , DOES HE WANT TOO? I fear the answer is NO! Why should he, for as he and the Democratic member keep reminding us, he won the election. Doesn't matter to him or the Democrats, this is not what the voter voted for, where is the biparticianship he stated he will provide. Mr. President, you can't do it through the media , for they are all left wingers.

    December 5, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Data Driven

    All this, over a measly 2% raise in the federal tax rate on the wealthy. Obama already caved on this 2 years ago; he won't do it again.

    Your turn, GOPhers.

    December 5, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    Boehner acknowledged that taxes on the wealthy will have to increase-a nod to the political reality of the impact of Obama's re-election victory and public support for the higher taxes on that group. He also challenged Obama to sit down with him to hammer out a deal.
    ------------------
    Boehner is simply covering up his own shortcomings and failed leadership as House Speaker. He cannot deliver votes from his caucus. Remember, Boehner had cut a deal with Pres. Obama last year, and Boehner couldn't deliver the votes on his end. His caucus wanted a sequestration bill, probably figuring they would score big in the 2012 elections.

    The proposal House Republicans delivered the other day says it all. It actually includes far MORE cuts to discretionary spending than sequestration would inflict. The proposal was not serious, not in the least.

    December 5, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    The GOP/Teatrolls just spent 4 years campaigning on these ideological premises. THEY LOST. Let them have their little circle-jerk this weekend if it makes them feel better. They won't be changing anyone's minds or winning over anyone to their cause. The lines are drawn, the sides chosen. I repeat: THEY LOST.

    December 5, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  5. Hammerer

    Obama says that everone should pay their share. What is the fair share of the deadbeats that elected him? Are they going to take less handouts?
    No they want more.
    Punish the taxpayers. If they are stupid enough to work and pay taxes they should pay more taxes.

    December 5, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  6. The REAL Truth...

    @jpmichigan – Obama put a proposal on the table – like it or not. The Grand Obstructionist Party doofuses puffed up their chest feathers, cried "foul" and send their own letter proposal (magnanimously devoid of specfics – yes, I read it) that offered nothing but the usual bluff and outrage that comes from that camp.
    Obama holds ALL the cards on this one. Expect more huffing, puffing, buffoonery and faked outrage from the Repugs as we get closer. It's theirs to lose!

    December 5, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. Rick 7809

    The President needs to call Boehner's bluff and sit down with him to talk about the other tax reforms that the Teapublicans are after. Then see if the Speaker can deliver the votes, even if he has to split his caucus to do it. Doing nothing but pandering to the bases makes both sides look bad. Somebody needs to play grown up in this.

    December 5, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. 2014 Vote

    WOW they are leaving to go on vacation while middle class is wondering if taxes are going to go up.

    2014 we need to vote these republican out of the office.
    We pay republican to do there job and look they fail middle class.

    December 5, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. mcskadittle

    and the republicans b itch about a few rounds of golf, do these guys on the hill ever work?

    December 5, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  10. TheVoice2

    Either way taxes are going up for the rich. It's OVER for GROVER!

    The ultra rich have bought themselves a political party called the Repulblicans/GOP and Grover Norquist is their "hit man"

    December 5, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    "You don't do grand bargains in even numbered years. The public has not been adequately prepared for the big sacrifices that have to be made."

    Did I read this correctly ... as in "is this guy serious" ?

    Grand bargains is odd years only ?

    December 5, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  12. mcskadittle

    it is really past time to get rid for this do nothing congress

    December 5, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "What is the fair share of the deadbeats that elected him?"

    Is their suffering not enough? Would you like a pound of flesh too?

    December 5, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  14. Name Independent Thinker

    2014 can't come soon enough, we need to find people who will compromise and reach across the aisle. I am tired of the infighting and bickering along with the rest of the country. Jim de Mint take note, your days are numbered as a senator for South Carolina. The term " the south will raise" is going to take on a whole new meaning.

    December 5, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. sonny chapman

    39% – 35% = 4%. Raise THE RATE to 1/2 the difference= 37%. But Repubs. can't say the word RATE or they will vaporize.

    December 5, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "The President needs to call Boehner's bluff and sit down with him to talk about the other tax reforms that the Teapublicans are after. Then see if the Speaker can deliver the votes, even if he has to split his caucus to do it. Doing nothing but pandering to the bases makes both sides look bad. Somebody needs to play grown up in this."

    Nope. He doesn't have to do that this time. He has all the leverage and the GOP has NONE. Obama can sit back, let the cuts expire for EVERYONE at the end of the year and the Dems can follow it up with legislation that would fix it for the middle-class ONLY. Then, people like me get to munch popcorn while the GOP/Teatrolls have yet another meltdown trying to figure out hwo to screw the middle-class without completely and irrevocably destroying themselves for the final time.

    December 5, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  17. Let's Move Forward

    @Hammerer, as someone that voted for President Obama I resent your comment about deadbeats. I probably paid more in taxes last year than you earned. Get over it and move on with your miserable life.

    December 5, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  18. John

    Can we change our mind and not pay for their airfare home? should they get a limo ride to their house on us? Should they get paid if they can't even stay there to work on the fiscal cliff?........If they continue to work part time, should they get full time pay? Is their 11% approval rating too high?.............pathetic bunch.........

    December 5, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  19. Let's Move Forward

    By the way sore losers like Hammerer we all know it is people like you and your family that get the most government aid and you all voted for Romney. That is why you will never leave the trailer parks.

    December 5, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  20. Hammerer

    Sniffit "is their suffering not enough"
    I know that is is a struggle waiting every month for the gov. check and then walk to the liquor store to cash it and then not have enough to pay the car note after buying the weed.

    December 5, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  21. Hammerer

    Lets Move Forward " paid more taxes"
    I'll take that bet. Truth is you probably have never worked a day in your life!
    The only taxes you see is the handout from the taxpayers.

    December 5, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "39% – 35% = 4%. Raise THE RATE to 1/2 the difference= 37%. But Repubs. can't say the word RATE or they will vaporize."

    NO. And here's why: that 4% increase only applies to earnings OVER $250,000. In other words, a person making $500,000 would pay an additional $10,000 in taxes, which is an EFFECT TAX RATE increase of only 2%. And guess what? The EFFECT TAX RATE increase only reaches 3% once we're talking about someone who makes a full $1,000,000 in a year paying an extra $30,000 in taxes, something they can afford easily without it having a large effect on their bottom line (unless they have irresponsibly leveraged themselves to the edge of oblivion and are...gasp...trying to live outside their actual means). In fact, the 4% you speak of is an asymptote that is never reached because of the bracketing. Everyone is treated the same on their first $250,000. There's nothing inequitable about this that requires compromising on just 2%. Compromise does not always automatically mean "in the middle."

    December 5, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. oldleftcoastdude

    I'm confused. Did the entire House get sent home, or only the Republicans? Also, Cantor says the House won't adjourn till a deal is reached, but does that mean they're in session, even though none of the members are in Washington? Will they vote by phone. Someone out there help me on this, please.

    December 5, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "Can we change our mind and not pay for their airfare home? should they get a limo ride to their house on us?"

    Bikes without seats....and Cantor or whichever GOPer is in charge of House session scheduling should have to crawl on his belly.

    December 5, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "Sniffit "is their suffering not enough"
    I know that is is a struggle waiting every month for the gov. check and then walk to the liquor store to cash it and then not have enough to pay the car note after buying the weed."

    Speaking from personal experience? I can afford everything I do handily because of my earnings. Get it through your idiot skull: there are plenty of us wealthy folks out there who still believe in upholding the social contract and paying our fair share in order to make sure this country is on the track to progress. Not everyone is a cynic who has succumbed to class and race resentment.

    December 5, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
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