Now that the President, Senate, and House have finally hammered out a last-minute deal to avert the automatically-triggered tax hikes and program cuts known as “The Fiscal Cliff,” we can all heave a collective sigh of relief … at least until the next big fight comes along. According to Politico‘s in-depth report on the fiscal cliff negotiations, the deal almost didn’t happen. For readers who don’t have time to read the five-page article, here are some highlights from the past week’s delightful proceedings:
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) bumped into House Speaker John Boehner (R-A$$hole) in the White House lobby last Friday and ripped into Boehner for not cutting a deal, to which Boehner pithily responded, “Go f— yourself.” A puzzled Reid responded “What are you talking about?” — perhaps his age has made him hard of hearing — so Boehner courteously repeated his previous statement. Politico‘s report also confirms suspicions that relations had completely broken down between Boehner and the White House; Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); and Reid and Boehner.
- The acrimonious sniping continued amongst key aides and cabinet members as Boehner’s aide, Brett Loper, shouted at Obama’s economic adviser, Gene Sperling, for not offering a viable plan, and House Republicans laughingly scorned Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plans while their aides leaked them to the press.
- According to Politico‘s article, “Even the usually close alliance between McConnell and Boehner nearly unraveled over disagreements on strategy. Senate Republicans became convinced that House conservatives would sink the economy and their party by refusing to sign off on a bipartisan agreement, a fear that grew only more pronounced during the chaos on Tuesday.”
- Luckily, cooler heads prevailed as Vice President (and former Delaware Senator) Joe Biden and McConnell stepped into the breach. Despite their political differences, the former colleagues’ 20+ year relationship enabled them to work together and broker a deal, which was announced at 9:00 p.m. EST on New Years Eve. Now “all” they needed to do was get a thumbs-up vote from the House.
- Behind the scenes, top Democrats reportedly expressed deep reservations about some aspects of the compromise, and Reid wanted to hold out for a better deal. President Barack Obama continued pushing forward, as House members reportedly grumbled about a Senate bill passed “in the dead of night” by “sleep-deprived octogenarians.”
- In the end, the House approved the deal 257-167 — carried by a semi-bipartisan 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans — at 10:45 p.m. on Tuesday night … but only after a a long and drawn-out New Year’s Day soap opera.
- On the plus side, the legislation raises taxes on wealthier Americans to Clinton-era levels, raises revenue by $620 billion (with only $12 billion in cuts), and extends unemployment benefits. On the minus side, payroll taxes will go back up for middle class Americans, the deal fails to reduce the deficit or shore up earned benefits programs, and Nascar, Hollywood, and Wall Street still receive big give-aways.
The tense and acrimonious fiscal cliff negotiations prove Prussian statesman Otto von Bismark’s old adage that “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” With deep divisions between Democrats – who believe that the government should invest in our future, share our burdens and benefits fairly, and protect the basic human rights of all of its citizens – and Republicans who increasingly appear to support socialized risk, privatized profit, income inequality, and hegemony for white, Christian, heterosexual males – it’s hard to see how any deals will be reached which adequately address the critical issues affecting our future.
As we narrowly avoid an economic disaster with a deal that satisfies no one, future battles loom. According to Politico‘s Reid J. Epstein, McConnell only agreed to the fiscal cliff deal to gain “leverage” in the upcoming debt ceiling fight only two months from now. In a New Year’s Eve appearance on CNBC, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) warned:
“And so we’re going to end up carrying this on now to the debt ceiling, which WILL be serious … unfortunately, that is going to be the next line in the sand. And I agree with you it’s a much more problematic line in the sand to have.”
And today, the President made it clear that the fight over our country’s financial priorities won’t end at the fiscal cliff: Already, Obama is demanding tax increases on the rich, while — amidst GOP infighting — pressuring House Republicans to vote for an aid package for areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Happy New Year!
|Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, friend her on facebook, or follow her on Twitter.|