Current Weather
The Spy FM

After Fruitless Weekend, Congress Still Seeks Fiscal Deal

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
December 31, 2012

It is almost unimaginable that both the House and Senate would be in session on a Sunday evening on the penultimate day of the year. And yet, they both were, with lawmakers hoping it was not merely a big waste of time and effort.

A bipartisan push by Senate leaders over the weekend has so far failed to forge a deal to spare American wage earners from tax hikes and shield government programs from drastic cutbacks.

Congress is meeting again Monday in hopes of a breakthrough — or in an effort to not appear to be asleep at the wheel.

‘Significant Distance’ Between Parties

Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor Sunday night saying the Senate would reconvene Monday at 11 a.m. ET, and that by then he hoped to have further announcements to make about skirting the fiscal cliff:

“There’s still significant distance between the two sides, but negotiations continue,” he said. “There is still time left to reach an agreement, and we intend to continue negotiations.”

Reid had acknowledged earlier that he and his fellow Democrats failed to deliver the counteroffer he’d promised in response to an offer GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell made Saturday evening.

A frustrated McConnell announced he was reaching out to Vice President Joe Biden in hopes of rebooting the stalled talks.

“There is no single issue that remains an impossible sticking point. The sticking point appears to be a willingness, an interest, or frankly the courage to close the deal,” he said. “I want everyone to know I’m willing to get this done, but I need a dance partner.”

Snags In The Talks

But Democrats said there was indeed a sticking point: the Republicans’ insistence that any deal include a new formula to hold down cost of living increases for Social Security recipients. Reid declared that a nonstarter.

“We’re willing to make difficult concessions as part of a balanced, comprehensive agreement,” he said, “but we’ll not agree to cut Social Security benefits as part of a small or short-term agreement, especially if that agreement gives more handouts to the rich.”

A short time later, at a closed-door meeting, Republicans decided to take that politically radioactive Social Security demand off the table. Their chief objection to what Democrats wanted, said Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, was that the president’s party sought only to raise more revenues and spend more money.

“There’s no deficit reduction in the offer that they’re making — pretty phenomenal,” he said. “And I don’t think any American would want to support that kind of proposal.”

One big reason there’s no deficit reduction, said Senate No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin, is that Republicans themselves want some very costly items in the package.

“There’s no deficit reduction when you give a higher estate-tax exemption and lower rate, and if you have a permanent fix on AMT, the alternative minimum tax, which costs $800 billion,” he said. “So when you put those two on the table, you’re up to almost $1 trillion. And those are things they’re insisting on.”

Determining What’s Important

In a rare appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, President Obama said Republicans’ actions belied claims they wanted to deal with the deficit in a serious way.

“The way they’re behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected,” he said. “That seems to be their only overriding, unifying theme. And at some point, I think what’s going to be important is that they listen to the American people.”

Some Democrats vow they won’t be bullied into something they’d regret just to avoid the cliff.

“If we get a good deal, fine,” says Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. “But I’ve always said no deal is better than a bad deal because even if we go — there is no real cliff, I’ve always said there’s a slope anyway — the world won’t end.”

‘Disastrous’ Consequences?

The world won’t end, but business-as-usual may be disrupted. If Senate leaders can’t get a deal, members of both parties say they’ll step up.

“We can’t very well just throw up our hands and give up,” says Republican Susan Collins of Maine. “The consequences are too disastrous for our economy and for the public trust in government. People are furious that we don’t have a solution yet.”

All that’s required, says Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, is a little patience.

“I think we’ll get this solved. It may take a day or two, maybe three, but we’ll get it solved,” he says.

But there’s only one day left of 2012. Even one day later, efforts to avert the cliff will have failed, and Congress will be left trying to claw its way back up. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

Listen Live Now!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

11AM to 12PM The Story

The Story

The Story with Dick Gordon brings the news home through first-person accounts. The live weekday program is passionate, personal, immediate and relevant to listeners, focusing on the news where it changes our lives, causes us to stop and rethink, inspires us.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center