The Debt Ceiling Won’t Be on the Floor or the Table

Never mind the end of the Mayan Long-Count calendar, whose flip of the page passed on Dec. 21st without so much as a shooting star (although a friend who lives in Upstate New York noted that the sky was so bright that morning that it hurt her eyes); the United States is approaching the Fiscal Cliff on Dec. 31st, the deadline for an agreement to keep the country from going over the financial cliff through automatic tax increases.

Spending cuts are also on the danger list, though they are of no loss to anyone but Democrats.  What is off the table is an agreement on the debt ceiling.  Unless it was taken off the table, Obama refused to “bargain.”  Without the agreement to rein in debt, any agreements our bipartisan Congress comes to will be worthless.  We can’t borrow our way into solvency.

Congress has returned to the Capitol after their brief Christmas holiday and resumed their Perils of Pauline positions, with each side demanding the other take the initiative, according to the Associated Press.  Obama tried to quell the latest flare-up via a round of calls to Congressional leaders Wednesday night from Hawaii.  This was a crisis he just couldn’t manage from sand chair in Hawaii and so he boarded Air Force One and headed back to Washington.

Republican leaders planned to bring the House back into session on Sunday evening. But what legislation they will act on is uncertain.  Meanwhile, Senate leaders are working “off-stage” today to reach an eleventh-hour deal to avert a fiscal crisis, with no official proposals or votes expected until Sunday.  Harry Reid, our hero, has adjourned the chamber until tomorrow so Democratic and Republican leaders can negotiate on a deal to present to the House.

House members will officially return to Capitol Hill on Sunday in expectation that the Senate will present them with a plan to stop tax increases that are scheduled to kick in next week.  Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle vowed late Friday to scramble over the weekend to produce a new bill, on the heels of a high-stakes White House meeting with President Obama that is seen as the last chance to come together before the tax-hike deadline.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes Senators can come forward with a recommendation as early as Sunday.  Several senior administration officials told Fox News late Friday night that McConnell, a Republican, is showing strong signs that he will help seal a deal.

However, they acknowledges he will have a difficult time getting a deal passed in the Republican-controlled House, which has so far rejected any plan that includes allowing tax rates to increase for higher-earning Americans.

“We need to have everybody step back a bit,” Harry Reid said.  Spoken like a true bureaucratic leader.

The pledge to work on a new bill is by no means a solution to the sweeping set of tax hikes set to hit a few days from now, followed by the promise of steep spending cuts.  Lawmakers still have to write the bill and produce something that can pass both chambers.  Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room late Friday, voiced a dose of doubt about the Senate leaders’ final push for a deal.

He said he’s “modestly optimistic” but that if Reid and McConnell fail, the Senate should allow an up-or-down vote on his scaled-back proposal.

“The hour for immediate action is here, it is now,” Obama said. “We’re now at the last minute, and the American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. … We’ve got to get this done.”

The American people voted for economic suicide when they voted for Obama in November.  No one even knows exactly what the plan entails.  No one knows how much of his plan cuts tax hikes or cuts spending.  Considering how long this effort has been delayed, it’s possible lawmakers will miss the deadline and Americans will miss a good deal of money from their first paychecks in January.

Apparently, the Senate wants to tweak the Obama plan, which would include an extension of current tax rates for most Americans — but potentially adjust it so fewer earners see a tax hike, and add a provision dealing with a looming expansion of the estate tax.

The debt ceiling, which Obama wants increased, would not be part of this bill. And a senior White House official admitted it is unclear how a looming set of spending cuts would be addressed.   The White House official said that during the meeting, Reid and McConnell jumped in and offered to draft a new plan after Obama told them he thought his scaled-back proposal could pass both chambers.

The president’s plan is hardly the “grand bargain” lawmakers were shooting for just a few weeks ago – a plan that would narrow the deficit, overhaul the tax code and set the country on a course to curb its entitlement spending, all while averting massive tax hikes and spending cuts.   Those dreamers.  Instead, Obama wants a bill that cuts the tax hikes for families making under $250,000, people who already pay relatively little in the way of taxes. He has pushed that particular provision for months, though Republicans have adamantly opposed raising taxes on those making above $250,000.

Obama’s proposal would also extend unemployment benefits for roughly 2 million people expected to lose them next year, and deal with “other outstanding issues.”  Here in New Jersey, all emergency unemployment benefits are being cut as of Dec. 31st, regardless of when you started collecting.  A scurrilous manipulation, dangling millions of unemployed whose situation you can lay right at the feet of corporation-taxing Democrats in order to get the deal he wants.

It’s one thing to be tied to your state when you’re out of work; it’s quite another to be fettered to the Fed for your daily bread.  The political dagger hangs over you at all times; not much better than the corporate barons the public frequently blames for economic crises.  At least your employer would never tell you where you can live.

Fox News says, “The immediate challenge for negotiators, though, will be to craft a plan that does enough to spare most Americans a big hike without doing so much as to complicate the bill’s passage. There are a host of expiring provisions next year — from Medicare rates to doctors to payroll tax cuts — that some lawmakers hoped to address before the end of the month. The more items added to the bill, the trickier it gets to pass it.   Lawmakers have been hesitant to predict whether Congress will be able to arrive at any solution.

“We are obviously running out of time here,” McConnell said earlier Friday.

Lawmakers effectively have fewer than two working days to pass legislation. While the Senate was in session this week, the House does not return until Sunday afternoon.  Between now and Jan. 1, Congress has just a handful of options for sparing taxpayers. Aside from the scaled-back plan being offered by Obama or the new plan being drafted in the Senate, lawmakers could simply pass a short-term extension of current rates — buying more time to work out an agreement. Lawmakers might have to do this even if they reach an agreement by the weekend — because of the sheer time it would take to write that bill and bring it to the floor.

Or Congress could let the tax hikes happen, only to retroactively deal with them next year.  Maybe.  The Boston Globe reported Friday that the IRS may delay the impact of tax hikes by holding off on telling employers to change how much they withhold from workers.

The government tailors are still working on enlarging American’s pockets so that the Government’s bloated hand will fit into it.


Published in: on December 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyhow, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  2. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment.
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    be a taboo matter but typically people don’t speak about such subjects. To the next! Kind regards!!

  3. Why visitors still use to read news papers when in this technological globe
    all is presented on web?

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