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. craig

    When the going gets tough, the GOP House goes home! Yeah, that's going to solve a lot of problems. Too bad we can't all do that, but somehow our bosses expect us to show up and do the work. Actually that's the same expectation the American People have for those they elected to govern and provide leadership. I guess the GOP didn't notice that clause in their Contract with America.

    December 6, 2012 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  2. Joan Souza

    We had a small business for 34 years that had under 20 employees. The business was a C corp and we were both employees of the business so we paid taxes at the same rate just like all the other employees. Our sales grossed from $500,000 to 5M through the years. I don't understand why small businessmen would be hit with higher taxes than their employees if their business is a C corp.

    December 6, 2012 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  3. Dave

    John Boehner won't be serious until he kicks Grover Norquist to the curb.

    GOP, you are playing with serious fire here. If you don't listen to the public you'll lose control of the house in 2014. It's inevitable. The public outside your dwindling base is utterly disgusted by your party's behavior.

    December 6, 2012 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  4. Neurotoxin

    It makes for a good, cheap, "anger the public" journalism; but realistically speaking – what's the point of them sitting in DC with their thumbs in their.... mouths? As the story accurately documents, there are no negotiations and any vote that might happen is weeks away. Further, the Republican leadership has taken on a laughable practice of drafting proposals with only a few top policymakers present and then waving them at the President and the media without vetting them by the bulk of their caucus. Between those 2 things, I would leave too. It's pointless and while the article carefully avoid this aspect – Republicans leaving is probably a significant demonstration of rebellion against their own party's leaders for trying to cut them out of the drafting process.

    December 6, 2012 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  5. Don DaMiddle

    Boehner is a powerless figure head for the GOP.
    The president should just negotiate with Grover Norquist.
    No GOP Representative is going to violate their "PAC Pledge" to Norquist.
    They don't want to give their campaign money back.

    December 6, 2012 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  6. ETW

    Now that the House members are going home for a long weekend in the middle of this mess, WHERE ARE ALL THE FOXTROTS & LIMBOTS WHO NEED TO COMPLAIN EVERY TIME THE PRESIDENT PLAYS A SIMPLE ROUND OF GOLF OR HAS DINNER WITH HIS FAMILY?????? DOUBLE STANDARD, MUCH!!!!!

    December 6, 2012 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  7. jzap

    The White House the senate and most republicans in the house want a deal. If we go over the cliff it will be the tea party's finest hour. They will rejoice that they helped the speaker of the house drive us over the cliff. They will say I told you so and sleep well that night. Then it will take two years for us the public to clean house. Like in the House of Representatives. Then we can get some things done. Unfortunately two years will have us in a bad recession. Warren Buffet says we can handle it and if I were a betting man I would trust his judgement. I also think he knows it would take the republicans out of the running for the White House in 4 years and maybe even 8 years. The world is watching the worst speaker in the history of the house follow, I mean lead from the ..... This is the time for the president to lead and he is doing just that by sticking to his promise for the middle class and not be intimidated by back seat drivers. We are proud to see his leadership go to the next level. We will need that over the next two tough years.

    December 6, 2012 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  8. casey s

    If we continue to follow the last 12 years of Bush/Obamma's Keynsian, Elitist, too big to fail, oligarchy economics, true trickle down economics, trickling down from govt. we will have the following;
    the recession we are still in will continue, unemployment will continue to grow, small business will continue to fail, wealth will continue to consolidate on wall street, and main street america, all its white, black, red, yellow and green will continue to die.
    If we go off the 'fiscal cliff'; the recession we are still in will continue, unemployment will continue to grow, small business will continue to fail, wealth will continue to consolidate on wall street, and main street america, all its white, black, red, yellow and green will continue to die.
    The only difference wil be the forced cutbacks in spending, and an increased tax burden on everybody. In other words, a shared sacrafice while the country gets its fiscal house in order.
    If those are my two chocies, as a small business person, i preferr the second.

    December 6, 2012 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  9. Jarrod

    Well, thats great. Our GOP reps in congress would rather "go home" then do what our president and the majority of those they supposedly represent. I guess they must be thinking that we the public will forget they caused us hardship come the 2014 midterms. Well, we will just see about that.

    December 6, 2012 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
  10. Yonni

    Do Republicans have middle class in their family? How can they leave town while we are looking the next job to come around. They sure don't understand our suffering or our desire to work and make a living. Just because to cover their sponsors from a tax hike they left the American Middle class suffering. I hope people wise up in the future and stop voting against their own interest because of their bigotry and hate but for their economic and political advantage.

    December 6, 2012 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  11. MOCaseA

    TEAPARTY MIKE-

    So do you actually read the proposals, are are you just restating the one sided bull-hooey that is being fed to you by your party leadership?

    Obama's plan is to cut the deductions and loopholes, plus add a small increase, to the taxes paid by those who make more than $250,000/yr, cut a few of the more lucrative tax breaks across the board, reduce spending on unsustainable projects (like unnecessary wars), and in effect reduce the govt spending by roughly $800B while increasing the income by about $600B. To top it all off he is trying to keep the economy stable by supporting the vast majority of Americans, those in the middle class, by making their tax burden the lightest.

    The most recent proposal by the GOP was to remove all tax breaks from the middle class, INCREASE the range considered upper class (to $200,000/yr or more) and leave all tax breaks for them in place. Then they proposed to cut 75% of spending on medicaid/medicare, another $600B from govt subsidies, privatize social security, and cut funding from programs like Educational Support and grants for up and coming sciences. In effect they would kill medicare, hamstring the subsidy system, hinder education and scientific advancement, and put the major tax burden on the people that are already under severe financial burden as it is.

    The President has sworn to veto anything but a FULL plan, he's tired (as are all Americans) of "kicking the can down the road." If you cannot comprehend this, then there is an issue with your ability to use cognitive logic.

    And instead of spouting off suppositions and half facts, do a little research first.

    December 6, 2012 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  12. shoos

    If you crash my 401K because you couldn't come up with a deal. You all stink!

    December 6, 2012 03:50 am at 3:50 am |
  13. mmi16

    Congress – what a bunch of incompetent WIMPS! There is the work of the country to be done and they run and hide in the Dogma Houses.

    GOP members – despite being reelected to your Gerrymandered SAFE districts – the country DID NOT VOTE for your party's vision and plan!

    December 6, 2012 04:09 am at 4:09 am |
  14. GaryB

    Well, the Republicans in Congress haven't done anything constructive in the past two years. Why would we expect them to do their jobs now?

    December 6, 2012 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  15. LesC

    If the conservatives really wanted to have an impact on the deficit, they would combine the $800 billion that the republicans are offering in closing loop holes and tax breaks and add to that the $1.6 trillion in the expiration of the Bush tax cuts to the 2% and we would have $2.4 trillion in deficit reductions over ten years. If you want to be the "greatest country on earth" you have to be willing to pay for it!

    If republicans think they are going to get $3-$4 in spending cuts from Medicare and/or Mediaid benefits for every dollar of increased revenue, they are out of their minds. The republicans have had 4 years to convince the american voters that their draconian approach to dealing with the economy is the right thing to do and have failed. Elections have consequence and until the republicans and teabaggers accept the fact that they and their ideaology was voted down, they will continue to have a negative impact on the economy. When you find yourself in a deep hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging. Bending the 98% over so the top 2% can get off is not going to get them reelected.

    December 6, 2012 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  16. BarryMoore

    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.

    Umm.... actually if the Republicans passed a bill saying the tax cuts for the middle class is perminent, Obama would sign it to law right away, that's what he wants. Not sure where you get he would veto it. He has gone on the record several times saying he would sign it right away. Think you got your facts mixed up with the Republicans.

    December 6, 2012 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
  17. Bob Ramos

    I am going to ask my GOP Rep how he can justify increasing taxes on 98% of the population whereas the 2% say they do not mind paying the extra tax. He will response by saying he is willing to close tax loopholes where then I will ask him to identify those tax loopholes. If he continues to follow the Boehner way, he is doomed in 2014 as to reelection.

    December 6, 2012 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  18. dscon

    Cons need to save their principles and integrity............
    Just vote against raising taxes. It won't fix the spending problem anyway!
    The pendulum is swinging away, but will return when the ppl
    see this economic method is unsustainable.
    We have the Majority in the House!

    .

    December 6, 2012 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  19. LivinginVA

    "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."

    Not what my 95 year old retired, WWII veteran does with his government check. Nor, I suspect, the many folks who work at Walmart but get paid little enough they get government assistance.

    December 6, 2012 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  20. Rememberwhatbushdid

    The House has NOT EARNED A VACATION. The GOP, incredibly, has put another nail in its own political coffin. How can you even think of going home without agreeing to the kind of deal Americans clearly indicated we want in the election? You guys are unbelievable. Boehner is absolutely THE WORST SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE at least in my lifetime. And I'm old! Two more years, max, of Boehner calling the shots. Watch out...some GOP congressmen and women might even be recalled after this latest slap in the face to the middle class.

    December 6, 2012 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  21. Ultimately

    Cut 2 Trillion in 10 years while the deficit continues to grow 2 Trillion per year...........umm..........calculating...............Deficit in 2022.........26Trillion..........cuts 2 Trillion = 24Trillion plus interest...............does not compute.................OVER THE CLIFF WE GO.

    December 6, 2012 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  22. MightyMoo

    If I worked like a lawmaker from the House I'd have been fired a long time ago. Dock their pay and benefits till the job is done.

    December 6, 2012 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  23. Joe

    Buckle up, everyone. We're going over.

    December 6, 2012 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  24. roy

    Teaparty mike are you really that silly? Or are you just trying to sound like a FOOL!! The mess you wrote is complete non-sense!!!

    December 6, 2012 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  25. Anthony

    In reality the top 25 percent can have their taxes go up slightly and the world will not end. He could end the tax cuts for a larger base and make more revenue. His plan failed due to he asked the congress to give up control of the debt ceiling. Do you expect them to give the president that much control, would you want a republican president with that much control? issue lies democrats think there will never be another republican president allot of this happened during Clintons presidency. They declare the GOP dead then think they can run over the conservatives then 2 years later when it gets grim they win.

    I wish really everyone would have some compromise true the democrats won the election, but 49 percent of the electorate voted for Romney. Worse, in the house since there is a huge patch of red in our country, yet somehow they don’t matter. Seems unless you bleed blue your second rate, can’t tell you how many times i have been told my opinion doesn’t matter by a democrat.

    December 6, 2012 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
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