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. 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."

    Aaaaw, that's cute. Did you dig that one up from the Reagan years or is there a racist stereotypes manual I havent' heard about yet?

    December 5, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. TEAPARTY MIKE

    Obama has been running all over the country demanding Republicans pass a bill to make the Bush tax cuts for the middle class permanant now and quit holding the middle class hostage trying to protect the rich. Today Pelosi called for the same thing. Yet today I read an ABC new story that Obama says he would reject a possible Republicans doomsday plan to just pass the middle class tax cuts is if a larger deal can not be made. How crazy can he get. That is exactly what he has been demanding.
    If Republicans did pass a last minuet bill to make the Bush tax cuts for only the middle class permanant, it is hard to believe Senate Democrats who would want to be re-elected, would vote no. The bill would pass the Senate and Obama would have to veto it. Is that how bad Obama wants to go over the cliff? Who's your friend middle class? Not Obama. Frankly every fool who voted for Obama in 2012, rich, poor or middle class should have their taxes go up. Does not work that way though. Actually if the Bush tax cuts do expire only 53% of Americans will have their taxes go up. 47% of Americans do not pay any income tax, some pay payroll taxes. But the Bush tax cuts do not include a payroll tax cut, just income taxes, so the 47% have no skin in the game one way or the other regarding the Bush tax cuts.

    December 5, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  3. rs

    The members of the House, especially the do-nothing GOP should not get to go home until a deal is done and the votes are tallied. I work in government, and simply saying "no" or going home IS NOT an option for me or my colleagues.

    December 5, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  4. rs

    jpmichigan-
    Why shouldn't the President use the media to "train" the members of the House? They apparentlty are to stupid to figure out the problem they've gotten themselves in, or what the solution might be. Remember? The Congressmen work for the PEOPLE. It is the PEOPLE they should be listening to.

    December 5, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  5. rs

    Hammerer-
    It would be instructive for both yourself and the GOP to understand the majority of Americans don't want to live in some version of Somalia, and that most Americans (but apparently not all) have a sense about morality and human need. You (and the GOP) see "Deadbeats", we see older, retired Americans, Veterans, people with catastrophic disease, poverty, and folks who need education.

    You, my friend, and your attitude so richly played out by Mr. Romney in his little 47% passion play to the grossly rich is why he lost the election, and why the GOP is on the fast track to irrelivancy.

    December 5, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  6. Larry in Houston

    LOL – weLLL – they went home – – – so nothing was done huh ? ok – so be it – he should go 2 Hawaii – take his family – and enjoy the holidays there – I wouldn't stay around if I had to deal with all that vitroil / sarcasm / liars / and scum – it wouldn't feel like the holidays. I say : Let 'er Rip , come Jan. The most that could happen is that taxes will go up for everyone – the poor / the mid class ( what's left of us) not to mention the rich – Hell, I make 100K per year , and if they want to Tax the hell out of me, then so be it – I know for a fact that there's a hell of a lot of people that make more than that – they will have to pay more also – So Be It – Let 'er Rip -

    December 5, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  7. don in albuquerque

    Sniffit–Totally disgusting. But I suppose that is all you strive for. Too be offensive. If you truely want to make this country great again start with the Ike tax rate of about 91%. That was how this country got great.

    December 5, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  8. GI Joe

    Appoint Rice while they are on recess and playing their silly games.

    They plan on working 60 days next year. Can you imagine? $174,000 for 60 days of doing nothing?

    December 5, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  9. Mort

    The Republican house is fixing to give the American Taypayer a lump of coal for Christmas. Republicans should beware you are fixing to light a fire under the voters that will last for years.

    December 5, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  10. Landry

    Might as well as your negotiating with yourself as Obama spends vast amounts on fuel still campaigning.

    December 5, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  11. Hammerer

    Sniffit "fair share"
    Fair share of what? Other peoples work or other peoples rewards?

    December 5, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  12. CBR

    We are now at a time when our members of Congress are not taking their jobs seriously. We, the people, need to answer with no work, no pay. They only get paid if they are in Washington working in the chambers or in conference rooms. Being in their ofice should not count.

    While we are at it, perhaps they can cut their office staffs and their committee staffs. They can pay 50% of hteir health care costs and more. This is another way to close the fiscal gap.

    December 5, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  13. TwikiReaks

    You guys deserve a nice long break. We will remember who is naughty and who is nice.

    December 5, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  14. Reince Your Priebus Daily

    After months of obstruction, house Republicans think they've earned a vacation?

    December 5, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  15. Patchygroundfog

    The GOP members heading home are going to be pummeled by voters who want them to LEAVE SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICAID ALONE!!!!

    December 5, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  16. DJESQ

    You Own It !

    We BORROW $4 Billion EVERY DAY !

    Sometime in 2024 we shall be bankrupt ! The streets will be chaos, like modern day Greece.

    As an Independent, I say, "a pox on both your houses."

    Still you voted for BO ! … Hello, dummies …

    Your grandkids will be fiscally enslaved
    and

    You Own It !

    Hope you enjoy the thrill of the fall …

    December 5, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  17. bejee45

    The Republicans are not, never have been or ever will be for working class people - it's never been more obvious.

    If you can't let the Bush tax cuts expire for the top 2% and keep the cuts in place for the 98% who are the backbone of this Country then - Washington (and Houston) , "We (Americans) have a problem."

    Join the "Flush the Republicans Now", movement - pun intended, and flush the bums, along with Grover Norquist, down the crapper.

    The Republicans should be pledged to the American people, and not Grover Norquist - any politician who is pledged to Grover Norquist should either revoke the pledge or be voted out of office - power to the middle class, not the 2%.

    December 5, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  18. Hindsight 20/20

    They should just go on permanent vacation and fall off the pay roll. The do nothing congress deserves nothing.

    December 5, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  19. John

    No doubt we will see a last minute "kicking the can" measure before holiday break. Congress and the President are not leaders they are politicians. If they were leaders we would not have this problem.

    December 5, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  20. NameFrank

    A victory by 4.6 million votes (3.6%) and with 332 electoral votes? David Walker, the popular vote margin alone is 2 million votes larger than for Bush's second term ( which the GOP declared a mandate!).
    Please! Obama won very handily!

    December 5, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  21. Jimbo

    Let's go over the cliff. There has to be compromise. Higher taxes for the wealthy and entitlement cuts for the commoner. I look forward to Jan 2 when across the board cuts will take place and tax rates will go up. Not to worry, eventually Congress and the White House will quit their game of "chicken".

    December 5, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  22. steve harnack

    Too bad that there isn't a dereliction of duty or AWOL charge to slap on these guys. If they are only going to work for 2 days per week can 3/5 of the pay be held back? Can there be a vote with only the available Congressmen after the Republicans all desert?

    December 5, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  23. ItsAMirage

    These Reps don't care. Most of them are rich and a hit on THEIR paycheck and perks is nothing compare the paycheck of us regular folk. We will suffer while they keep seeing chuckle at our economic suffering. Lobbies, PACS, they will keep them nice and fat.

    December 5, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  24. GEdwards

    Pres Obama's options:
    1. Agree to not screw anyone
    2. Decide to screw everyone
    3. Try to screw only the wealthy

    His choice? #2, if he can't get #3.

    December 5, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  25. joeymom

    STOP ACTING LIKE CHILDREN. Start being adults and get this done, now. Nothing to vote on? You still have a lot of work to be done, getting together a variety of plans for fixing this mess, until you find one everybody will swallow. And not a "do this now, we'll do those details later." Have it be "take these steps, and here are the numbers." We've had plenty of time for these "professionals" to get their ideas hammered and ready, the numbers crunched, and the plans prepped. This should be all over first thing Monday morning. Period.

    December 5, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
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