Lawmakers' long weekend
December 5th, 2012
04:17 PM ET
1 year 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. Joei n USA

    "The public is saying we're tired of the partisan bickering we want you to go to work and do your jobs"
    So what do they do --- Go Home on the taxpayers dime no less. The GOP will pay dearly in the next election

    December 5, 2012 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  2. really?

    Good for them. The members of Congress certainly deserve a vacation. American citizens certainly appreciate their daily efforts at making our lives better and our futures prosperous.

    December 5, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  3. Gloria

    We may end up over the cliff for a short time, but I pray the President does not give in to these sociopathic jerks in the GOP. I say this as a person who will be as negatively affected as anyone by the "cliff," but somebody has to put a stop to the Teaparty Tantrums. The GOP is pretty rapidly rendering itself obsolete.

    December 5, 2012 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  4. jkane sfl gop mascots the blubbering slobs allen west rover nitwitquest rick scott ,carl rove and donald dump ??????

    To bad we have to wait for the mid terms to kick the gop out of office , and norquest the subversive gop lobbyist will probably be in. The dustbin of history by then,norquest is dispised by most Americans and sells the gop votes through his blackmail of gop congresswosseies to the highest bidder,the gop should be proud ,losers ,your worthless !!!!!

    December 5, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  5. Ken

    Talk about do-nothing Congress

    December 5, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  6. kk

    I agree. The reps should NOT go home until they figure this mess out. After all, they were the ones who generated this deficit when they thought 'electing' Bush Jr to office was a good idea. Sorry boys, but you're not done yet. :-)

    December 5, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  7. TerryG

    They may just as well stay home for all the good they do.

    December 5, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  8. Doug

    Its not like they work for us...If I took off early I would not have a job....so is the corrupt life of politics

    December 5, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  9. Tyrone,Schenectady NY

    The Republicans listening to the same local voters that voted the obstructionist in office and drink the kool aid is do Americans no justice.This is a national issue!

    December 5, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  10. Lardeau

    I do not understand these clowns. Do they not realize how serious this has now become ?

    December 5, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  11. Didilus Maximus Vomitus

    This pretty much sums up the House of Representatives under Republican leadership. It is truly sad that the political elite in this country seem to have no regard for the welfare of the people they are supposed to be representing.

    We need to flush them completely out in 2014.

    December 6, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  12. history major

    For all the Republican talk about small businesses, the small businesses are the ones who will incur all kinds of extra expense if they have to change withholding rates on January 1, and then change them back later if the current cuts are extended on the tax brackets that apply to real workers. If they are going to extend the cuts, do it now and save both the companies and the IRS a lot of expense. The Republicans keep talking about the over $250,000 earners being the heads of a lot of sole proprieterships, but if you are dragging in more than $250,000 on your own, you are in the upper bracket, and if you are clearing $250,000 on the labor of others, taxing the amount of profit over $250,000 is not going to cause the owner to cut jobs. This is pure smoke and horse manure.

    December 6, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  13. Fed Up

    No doubt the overworked House members need another break. Oh wait, they just came back from a long break and re-election campaigns. What am I thinking? Whatever happened to the notion of "pay for performance". These people should have their pay docked and benefits suspended until they get something done. Too bad these fools can't be recalled.

    December 6, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  14. Ricko55

    So who really thinks that we got into this deficit crisis because we did not send enough money to Washington? What on earth makes anyone believe that sending even more will solve the problem? When the rest of the country was (and is still) going through pay cuts and layoffs, federal employees continued to get wage increases. There is zero chance that either party will spend less money, or use it more wisely, unless they just have less of it.

    December 6, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  15. Namerandy

    I have to tell you these guys know what they
    Are doing how many people do you know that
    Are paid a six figure salary for not doing a damm thing

    December 6, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  16. mgrgurich

    Boehner scheduled a whopping 103 work days in 2012 and many of them were marked by one congressman gaveling in and gaveling out

    December 6, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  17. joe mauro

    a disgrace they should be chained to their desksBoth sides are nothing more than a pack of self serving rodents!

    December 6, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  18. Grampa

    House members heading home for a few days during a time when there's nothing to vote on might not hurt or delay anything, but it sure looks bad.These guys are completely tone deaf if they think the public won't notice and react with anger.

    December 6, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  19. SLNH

    You ,mean to tell me that regardless of what is going on with the fiscal cliff discussions, the house has no other business to discuss? What are we paying them for?

    December 6, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  20. Luis

    I am telling my boss that I am taking off for Christamas, New year and possibly be back after Valentines day. If they try to fire me I will start a class action suit against work hours imposed on us that our government does not keep.
    What's good for them is good for us. I will not send a child of mine to war either.
    My prices will increase and your wages will decrease, just being an American republican so buy from me or I will never give your family a break. I HATE REPUBLICAN.

    December 6, 2012 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  21. David

    Make Congress stay and work until they get a deal!

    December 6, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  22. rosethornne

    What do you mean they're going home?
    Get back to WORK you .lazy weasels!

    December 6, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  23. Lance D.

    In 2008, once elected as POTUS, the ever-the-arrogant Obama stated to Hillary Clinton: "Since I now President of the United States despite "lack of Foreign Policy experience, I am nominating YOU as Secretary of State." As Donna Brazile always crows like a Black Rooster from her high perch: "Hillary Clinton is a stellar Photo-Op Diplomat - No doubt her name will be recorded in the history books next to Henry Kissinger."

    December 6, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  24. mbone

    to rs
    I agree with you completely! Are they not collecting their pay for the rest of the week? They should have stayed in their seats and told Boehner that they wanted to vote on ending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, just as the Senate did months ago!

    December 6, 2012 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  25. nomad2003

    obama is not listening either... talked and talked about a balance approach, he gets one, and turns it down, suggest he go read the book "How to win friends and influence people". Obama just wants more revenue to spend more...
    besides the wealthy do not have incomes to tax, they have capital gains... so an income tax rate of 39 percent will not effect the wealty.. only those who are WORKING on trying to get wealthy.... with the capital gains tax increases in Obamacare, they will sell off that stock and buy tax free securities...

    December 6, 2012 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
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