With the Monday at midnight deadline for the "fiscal cliff" fast approaching, political leaders still had not reached a compromise by Sunday night to avoid the recession that economists say will likely come with the combined tax increases and government spending cuts. With the House and Senate both in session on Sunday, members of Congress disagreed on whether there would be an agreement.
Much like the Budget Control Act of 2011, which is partly responsible for the fiscal cliff, Vice President Joe Biden is now leading efforts on behalf of the White House to reach an agreement. He met off and on with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) throughout much of the day.
Sounding optimistic on ABC's "This Week," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said it would not be unusual to have an agreement at the last minute: "I've been a legislator for 37 years and I've watched how these things work. On these big, big agreements they almost always happen at the last minute." more >>
The day before the 'fiscal cliff' deadline and as Congress continues to work on an agreement, President Barack Obama appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" to blame Congressional Republicans for not reaching a deal. In a panel discussion after the interview, journalists criticized Obama for not doing more to build trust with Republicans and not displaying more leadership on entitlement reform.
"We have been talking to Republicans ever since the election was over. They have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers," Obama explained Sunday.
The problem has not been with the Democrats, Obama said, but with Republicans because they have been unwilling to ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes. more >>
The U.S. government will go over its debt limit on Monday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced Wednesday. "Extraordinary measures" will be used to keep the nation from defaulting on promised payments for about two months.
The announcement came in a letter to congressional leaders.
The "extraordinary measures" will provide about $200 billion of "headroom," Geithner wrote, but the amount of time that will buy will depend much on what lawmakers do with regard to the "fiscal cliff." more >>
Lawmakers have given up on a "grand bargain" to avoid the "fiscal cliff" and fix the nation's long-term debt woes. Instead, the Senate is now working on a plan that would delay the spending cuts and tax increases that will ultimately be necessary to prevent the long-term debt crisis that experts say will be much more damaging than the fiscal cliff.
After a short Christmas break, President Barack Obama and the Senate will be back in Washington, D.C., Thursday, giving themselves only five days until the start of the fiscal cliff. The House is not scheduled to be is session Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will introduce a bill that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 per year, extend unemployment benefits, eliminate the alternative minimum tax for middle income families, and delay cuts in payments to doctors who see Medicare patients.
The plan would be less favorable to House Republicans than the "plan B" bill that they rejected last week. Reid expects, though, that the House would rather sign onto his plan than be blamed for going over the fiscal cliff. Plan B, introduced by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), would have kept the Bush-era tax cuts in place for all taxable income below $1 million. more >>
In a Wednesday press conference, President Barack Obama again rejected Speaker of the House John Boehner's "plan B" proposal to increase taxes on millionaires while preserving tax cuts for everyone else. He also accused Republicans of being unwilling to compromise because they will not support his plan.
"Remember what I said in the campaign," Obama remarked in response to a question about the "fiscal cliff." "I thought that it was important for us to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way. I said it was important for us to make sure that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share."
Boehner's plan to increase taxes on taxable income above $1 million and preserve tax cuts for everyone else did not meet the goal of balance and making sure that "millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share," Obama said, because it would give tax breaks to those making more than $250,000 and less than $1 million. more >>
Americans' evaluations of their own lives are at a 13-month low, according to Gallup. The drop is driven by Republicans and independents. Democrats have become slightly more positive about their lives.
Gallup's Life Evaluation Index is at 47.2, on a scale of zero to 100, and has declined for three straight months. The LEI measures how Americans feel about their current and future lives.
While the LEI is the lowest it has been in 13 months, it remains much higher than January 2009, after the financial collapse in October 2008, that led to the Great Recession. The 37.3 LEI score that month was the lowest, by far since Gallup began tracking the LEI in January 2008. The high point for the LEI was January 2011, when it was at 51. more >>