Like energy drink-guzzling college students pulling an all-nighter, our federal lawmakers are up against the “fiscal cliff” deadline today. And who’s the man you call when you need real work to get done? Biden. Politico this morning reports Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Veep have made “major progress” toward an accord:
McConnell and Biden, who served in the Senate together for 23 years, are closing in on an agreement that would hike tax rates for families who earn more than $450,000, and individuals who make more than $400,000, according to sources familiar with talks.
The vice president and the Senate minority leader only began talking Sunday, after negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and McConnell sputtered.
Sources close to the talks said a deal is now more likely to come together but cautioned that obstacles remain, including how Speaker John Boehner and House Republican leaders react to any tentative agreement.
But both parties have incentives to wait until January to strike a deal. Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler lays it out well:
Democrats can probably get a better revenue deal next year if all the Bush tax cuts expire, and Republicans will have an easier time supporting such an agreement when it’s not construable as anything other than a tax cut.Democrats want Republicans to agree to raise the debt limit now, and enough to avoid a new round of brinksmanship for at least a year. Republicans — or at least the party base — want to leave that piece out of the puzzle so they can turn to a more balanced, and higher-stakes fight early next year.
GOP leaders want Democrats to regard any agreement that allows tax rates on top earners to rise as a concession in and of itself — one that Democrats ought to meet with a spending-side concession of their own. Democrats want to bracket the higher tax rates (taxes are going up anyhow, so why should they regard this as a concession?) and then horse trade over ancillary issues like emergency unemployment benefits, the sequester, the debt limit, Medicare physician payments and so on.
But your must-see cliff TV today is not CSPAN, or CNN — it’s CNBC. Watch what the stock market is doing. If investor pessimism causes a big crash, it will be the biggest possible impetus for lawmakers to act. Remember TARP?
Your Washington-based fill-in Jolter was scurrying around the Capitol on Sunday in a Wu-Tang Clan state of mind, because Cliff Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.). Here’s what Georgia’s elected representatives provided my tape recorder:
Republican Sen. Johnny Iskason: “I’m not going to talk about what I would and would not do except to say the bottom line needs to be (increased) revenues and reduced spending, not new spending.”
Tifton Republican Rep. Austin Scott: “I think we’re all hopeful that we’ll get an agreement, but from our standpoint, we want to see spending cuts. And the idea of passing a tax increase without spending cuts just so the president can increase the size of the federal government is unacceptable.
Atlanta Democratic Rep. John Lewis: “I hope we come up with a plan that a great majority of members of the House — both Democrat and Republican — can vote for and support, and I hope we do it in a strong bipartisan fashion. Back in the district, every place that I’ve been … people are asking about it. They want to know. They want to know: ‘What are y’all going to do? Do it.’”
Atlanta Democratic Rep. David Scott: “We’re up here wanting to do the people’s business. We are hopeful that we do not go over the cliff. It is our resolve not to do it.”
Marietta Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey: “Our leadership is to the point where the Senate’s got to act. The Senate’s got to act. … We’ve extended the low Bush-era tax rate for everybody back in May, we passed that bill. And then the other thing of course was the Sequester Relief Act (moving Pentagon cuts to domestic programs). So we’ve done our job.”
Seizing upon the anti-Congress zeitgeist, Augusta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow urged colleagues on Sunday to reject their own scheduled pay increase, as President Barack Obama proposed last week that all federal employees get a 0.5 percent bump, ending a two-year freeze. Barrow is seeking co-signers for the following letter to House leaders from both parties:
We oppose the pay increase for Members of Congress granted by Executive Order on December 27, 2012. The Executive Order would raise our salaries by $900 per year, beginning March 27, 2013.
We believe that it is inappropriate for Members of Congress to receive a pay increase of any size while American families and taxpayers continue to face tough economic times.
We urge you to bring legislation to the floor to stop this pay adjustment as soon as possible.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been hospitalized after doctors discovered a blood clot. AP reports that Clinton “is being treated with anti-coagulants and would remain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital for at least the next 48 hours so doctors can monitor the medication.”
Washington is not the only place Georgians should keep an eye on if they are worried about new taxes. The AJC’s Arielle Kass lays out the fight over online retailers’ sales taxes:
Georgia, in an attempt to collect state and local sales taxes from online retailers that weren’t required to make shoppers pay, has expanded the definition of who must collect. Part of a new law goes into effect Jan. 1 and will ensnare online stores that don’t have a store or a warehouse in the state, but use ads on Georgia-based websites as a gateway to their own sites.
Sellers that have offices, stores or employees in the state are already required to collect sales tax in Georgia. It’s a fairness issue that has riled those retailers.
The new law is intended to get sites such as Amazon to collect taxes, but even the head of a lobbying group for Georgia retailers doesn’t expect it to work.
- By Daniel Malloy, Political Insider