U.S. House Does the Deal

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio

House passes fiscal cliff deal, tamps down

GOP revolt

Despite a divided Republican majority, the House of Representatives late Tuesday easily approved emergency bipartisan legislation sparing all but a sliver of America’s richest from sharp income tax hikes — while setting up another “fiscal cliff” confrontation in a matter of weeks.

Lawmakers voted 257-167 to send the compromise to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Eighty-five Republicans and 172 Democrats backed the bill, which had sailed through the Senate by a lopsided 89-8 margin shortly after 2 a.m. Opposition comprised 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner voted in favor of the deal, as did House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, his party’s failed vice presidential candidate. But Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against it.

Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room shortly after the vote, praised lawmakers for coming together to avert a tax increase that “could have sent the economy back into a recession.” (Read more here.)

New Congressional Motto: Country Last

The Senate passed the Biden/McConnell compromise bill last night. Now, it has to go to the House of Representatives.

Among other things, the bill delays some of the decisions that have been holding things up for two months. In other words, our elected leaders plan to put themselves and this country through this again in two months. All because they couldn’t manage to do their jobs now.

Evidently, if  Vice President Biden didn’t have the personal relationships with various senators that he does, we wouldn’t even have this compromise. The message in this, so far as I’m concerned, is that maybe civility does have a place in better government. This hate-filled what’s-in-it-for-me brinksmanship certainly isn’t doing us much good.

An ABC News article that explains the real issues behind this fight surprisingly well says in part:

Going over the “fiscal cliff” may seem irresponsible and self-destructive for the nation as a whole, but it’s a politically logical, self-preserving step for many individual lawmakers.

They come from districts where ideological voters abhor tax hikes, or spending cuts, that anybipartisan compromise must include. Many of these voters detest compromise itself, telling elected officials to stick to partisan ideals or be gone.

That’s why the fiscal cliff is just one in a continuing string of wrenching, demoralizing impasses on tax-and-spending showdowns, which threaten the nation’s economic recovery.

A breach of the fiscal cliff’s midnight deadline became inevitable late Monday when House leaders said they couldn’t keep waiting for the Senate to send a bill their way. The House may reconvene in a day or two to vote on a White House-blessed deal to curtail the new package of tax hikes and spending cuts, which technically start with the new year. But it’s painfully apparent that partisan warfare sent the government past a line that could alarm financial markets and further undermine faith in America’s leaders, at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the political realities that made a bigger solution impossible will not change any time soon. That raises red flags for upcoming fiscal clashes, especially the need to raise the government’s borrowing limit in a few months to avoid defaulting on federal debt …

… The vast majority of congressional Republicans have vowed never to approve higher tax rates. It’s no idle promise. Many of them preferred to let the fiscal cliff deadline pass, causing tax rates to rise on nearly all American workers, at least for a time. Then, presumably this week, they can vote to cut taxes for around 98 percent of Americans, rather than vote in December to raise rates on the richest 2 percent and avoid the cliff. (Read more here.)

What that last paragraph means is that the House Republicans have deliberately left the country go past the fiscal cliff. The reason is that, since the effect of doing this is an automatic raise in taxes on ordinary Americans, they will be voting for a tax cut when they pass the Senate compromise bill.

It’s all a shell game designed to let them say that they voted to cut taxes on their campaign pieces. That’s why they’re putting this country through this.

A CNN article describing the compromise bill and the legislative process it faces says in part:

(CNN) – If a Senate deal to avert the fiscal cliff becomes law, all but a sliver of the U.S. population will avoid higher tax rates, some key issues will be put off for two months, and all sides in the battle will emerge with a mixed record: winning key points, while ceding ground on others.

The deal, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate in an overwhelming 89-8 vote in the middle of the night, would maintain tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning less than $450,000. Technically, it would reinstate cuts that expired at midnight.

It would raise tax rates for those over those levels — marking the first time in two decades the rates jump for the wealthiest Americans.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House. GOP members planned to meet at 1 p.m., two aides told CNN.

“The purpose of this meeting is to review what the Senate has passed, discuss potential options, and seek member feedback. No decision on the path forward is expected before another member meeting that will be held later today,” one GOP leadership aide said. (Read more here.)

And away we go …

 

We’re going over the cliff folks, courtesy of the United States House of Representatives.

And please, don’t give me the partisan arguments about who is naughty and nice in this deal. It’s not the Republican’s fault. It’s not the Democrat’s fault.

It’s our fault.

We elected these bozos.

A lot of otherwise intelligent people are out there spinning up excuses for “their” political team like hamsters in a road race. Their story — and I’m sure they’re going to stick with it no matter what — is that their guys are white as new snow in this debacle. They’ll claim this in the face of the obvious realty that you can’t make a mess this big without everybody involved pitching in. That means both the Republicans and the Democrats and you and me  as well for letting them get away with it.

Will they vote on it tomorrow? Who knows? Whichever way it goes, they’re sure to pass something and do something that hurts people like me … and you.

I’m going to celebrate the New Year and have a fun evening. Then, tomorrow, I’m going to start my annual New Year’s diet. After I sleep in.

Somewhere in there I think we all need to think about housecleaning. And I’m not talking about the houses where we raise our families, cook our meals and mop the floors. I mean our political house.

Here, from the Washington Post, is the gist of the story. Read it and weep.

No Vote on “Fiscal Cliff” Package

Tonight: House Aides

The House will vote on other matters at 6:30 p.m.

and adjourn for 2012, House aides told NBC News

Monday, Dec 31, 2012

Members of the House of Representatives will not meet their midnight deadline to approve a “fiscal cliff” package, aides told NBC News. Instead, they will vote on a series of non-controversial “suspension bills,” before adjourning for 2012 without a new fiscal agreement.

The decision to leave “fiscal cliff” matters unsresolved came despite President Barack Obama’s earlier assessment that a deal was in sight but not yet finalized. The emerging deal he described would raise tax rates on family income over $450,000 a year, increase the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year.

“There are still issues left to resolve, but we’re hopeful Congress can get it done,” Obama said at a campaign-style event at the White House. “But it’s not done.”

What was done, officials told NBC News, was a deal to raise the tax rates on family income over $450,000 and individual income over $400,000. Also, estates would be taxed at 40 percent after the first $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple, up from 35 percent to 40 percent.

Unemployment benefits would be extended for one year. Without the extension, 2 million people would lose benefits beginning in early January. (Read more here.)

Joe Biden to the Rescue: Who Woulda Thought?

The president has announced that there may be a compromise on the “fiscal cliff.” Everyone is quick to point out that nothing is official yet, but the hopeful statement alone was enough to jump-start the stock market.

The white horse riders who saved the day? It appears that Senator Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden are able to stomach one another enough to actually sit down and do the business of the people.

If we dodge this bullet, we may have Joe Biden’s niceness to thank for it.

Who woulda thought?

(Oh by the way; I left that joke on the photo on purpose. Seemed fitting, somehow.)

Progress seen in last-minute ‘fiscal cliff’ talks
By ALAN FRAM and JULIE PACE | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Working against a midnight deadline, negotiators for the White House and congressional Republicansnarrowed their differences Monday on legislation to avert across-the-board tax increases.

Congressional officials familiar with talks between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said one major remaining sticking point was whether to postpone spending cuts that are scheduled to begin on Jan 1.

Republicans want to replace across-the-board reductions with targeted cuts elsewhere in the budget, while the White House and Democrats want to offset at least some of the so-called sequester with the revenue from tax increases. Senate Democrats were pushing hard against a GOP proposal for just a three-month delay in the across-the-board cuts.

At the same time, Democrats said the two sides were closing in on an agreement over taxes. They said the White House had proposed blocking an increase for most Americans, while letting rates rise for individuals with incomes of $400,000 a year and $450,000 for couples, a concession from President Barack Obama’s campaign call to set the levels at $200,000 and $250,000.

Any overall deal was also likely to include a provision to prevent a spike in milk prices with the new year, extend unemployment benefits due to expire and protect doctors who treat Medicare patients from a 27 percent cut in fees.

Despite the movement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that differences remained without spelling out what they were and said cooperation would be needed by both sides.

“Negotiations are continuing as I speak,” said Reid, D-Nev., as the Senate began an unusual New Year’s Eve session. “But we really are running out of time. Americans are still threatened with a tax hike in just a few hours.”(Read more here.)

The Fiscal Cliff: America’s First Self-Inflicted Recession??

Experts Forecast the

Cost of Failure to

Compromise

New York Times

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ | New York Times  

Even if President Obama and Republicans in Congress can reach a last-minute compromise that averts some tax increases before Monday’s midnight deadline, experts still foresee a significant drag on the economy in the first half of 2013 from the fiscal impasse in Washington.

While negotiators in the capital focus on keeping Bush-era tax rates in place for all but the wealthiest Americans, other tax increases are expected to go into effect regardless of what happens in the coming days. For example, a two percentage point jump in payroll taxes for Social Security is all but certain after Jan. 1, a change that will equal an additional $2,000 from the paycheck of a worker earning $100,000 a year.

Many observers initially expected the lower payroll-tax deduction rate of 4.2 percent to be preserved. But in recent weeks, as it became clear that political leaders were prepared to let that rate rise to 6.2 percent, economists reduced their predictions for growth in the first quarter accordingly.

Largely because of this jump in payroll taxes, Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight, is halving his prediction for economic growth in the first quarter to 1 percent from an earlier estimate of just over 2 percent. That represents a significant slowdown in economic growth from the third quarter of 2012, when the economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.1 percent.

Mr. Obama has pushed to preserve Bush-era tax rates on income below $250,000 a year but Republicans have held out for a higher threshold, perhaps in the neighborhood of $400,000 a year. Republicans also favor deeper spending cuts to curb long-term budget deficits — a move many Democrats oppose.

While hopes dimmed Sunday afternoon that a deal could be reached before Jan. 1, most observers said they did not expect the full impact from more than $600 billion in potential tax increases and spending cuts to swamp the economy right away. Indeed, a compromise could be struck in the coming weeks that heads off the worst of the fallout.

In the event no compromise is found, however, the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year. Under this outcome, Mr. Gault said, the economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013. (Read more here.)

Reid Says We’re Going Over the Cliff

 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid essentially told the Senate that he expects Congress and the President to push the country over the “fiscal cliff.”

I don’t think that Senator Reid was talking to the people of this country, or even the members of the Senate. I believe that the real audience he had in mind for this speech was House Speaker Boehner. This dramatic speech was the Democrats, throwing down with the Republicans. Senator Reid was essentially making a public statement to Boehner, saying, in effect, I see your refusal to negotiate and raise you one massive financial debacle.

These comments of Senator Reid’s are remarkably personal, calling Speaker Boehner a “dictator,” etc.

I doubt if this stand-off is about the “fiscal cliff” or taxes or any other question of policy; at least not now. It has devolved down to which guy is the manliest man.

What does this mean to you and me? It means that the buffalo are fighting in the swamps and we are the frogs who, if things really fall apart, are bound to lose. What is most likely to happen is that, even if these fools push this country over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” they will turn right around and retroactively undo their action with legislation rescinding what they just did.

That, of course, can take weeks, probably until at least half-way through January. What will happen to the markets during those weeks? What will happen to America’s credit rating? For a debtor nation like ours, credit rating is not a small thing.

The question is how far will this who’s-the-manliest-man-around-here claptrap stall and starve our already shaky economy? What will it take to get it going again after they’re all finished with this fight and ready to start on the next one?

The point for me is that these people we’ve elected don’t care nearly so much about this country as they do their partisan loyalties and chest-thumping grandiosity. We have placed our country and our future in their hands. Need I say more?

The NBC News article about Senator Reid’s speech reads in part:

 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R) (D-NV) hugs Speaker of the House John Boehner

NBC News Updated 2:48 p.m. – The Senate’s top Democrat said Thursday that he was pessimistic that Washington could avoid the impending fiscal cliff, accusing House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, of running the lower chamber as a “dictatorship.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was unsure there was enough time between now and the end of the year to reach a deal to avoid the combination of spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect on Jan. 1. Reid said “the only viable escape route” was for the GOP-controlled House to give its approval to a Senate bill that would preserve existing tax rates on income under $250,000.
“Everyone knows that if they had brought up the Senate-passed bill, it would pass overwhelmingly. But the speaker says, no we can’t do that,” Reid said on the Senate floor this morning. “It’s [the House] being operated by a dictatorship of the speaker.”
In response, a spokesman for Boehner said in a statement, “Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more. The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.”

Reid’s remarks suggest there has been no thaw in the stalemate that has plagued Washington for weeks, as consensus continues to elude Republicans and Democrats on averting the fiscal cliff. Amid the standoff, President Barack Obama called Reid and Boehner (along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell) late Wednesday from Hawaii. The president traveled back to the White House on Thursday following his brief family vacation. (Read more here.)

Playing Chicken With Our Economic Future …

U.S. President Barack Obama departs Honolulu, Hawaii December 26, 2012, for a return trip to Washington. REUTERS/Larry Downing

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama was flying back to Washington on Thursday and the top Republican in Congress planned to speak with House of Representatives lawmakers as the clock ticked toward a year-end deadline for action to avert the looming “fiscal cliff” tax hikes and spending cuts.

Markets around the world awaited action in Washington to prevent tax hikes on nearly all Americans and the deep automatic government spending cuts due to kick in at the beginning of next month that could push the U.S. economy back into recession.

Such action, however, remained far from certain, with Republicans and Democrats each insisting the other side move first amid continuing partisan gridlock.

Air Force One carrying Obama from Hawaii took off at about 3 a.m. EST for a journey that can take nearly half a day.

The U.S. Senate was scheduled to meet later on Thursday but on matters unrelated to the “fiscal cliff.” The Democrats control the Senate and theRepublicans control the House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday said through a spokesman that the Senate was ready to consider any bills coming from the House but would take no action on its own. (Read more here.)

Starbucks to Politicians: Come Together

NEW YORK, N.Y. -Associated Press

Starbucks is using its coffee cups to jump into the political fray in Washington.

The world’s biggest coffee chain is asking employees at cafes in the Washington, D.C. area to scribble the words “Come Together” on cups for drink orders on Thursday and Friday. CEO Howard Schultzsays the words are intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”

It’s the first time employees at Starbucks cafes are being asked to write anything other than customers’ names on cups.

While companies generally steer clear of politics to avoid alienating customers, the plea to “Come Together” is a sentiment unlikely to cause controversy. If anything, Starbucks could score points with customers and burnish its image as a socially conscious company.

This isn’t the first time the coffee chain is using its platform to send a political message. In the summer of 2011, Schultz also asked other CEOs and the public to stop making campaign contributions until politicians found a way to deal with a crisis over the debt ceiling that led to a downgrade in the country’s credit rating.

For the latest push, Starbucks is taking out an ad in the Washington Post on Thursday showing a cup with the words “Come Together” on it. (Read more here.)

Fiscal Cliff: Obama wants more than just taxes on rich folks …

Are we heading for a future where the only non-profits will be those with government blessing and government funding?

A move by the Obama administration to limit tax deductions for charitable donations could lead this country in exactly that direction. The administration has made this part of the package it is bargaining for in the so-called “fiscal cliff” imbroglio.

A December 13 Washington Post article discusses the lobbying efforts concerning the move to cut charitable deductions to non-profits. It says in part:

The White House and the nation’s most prominent charities are embroiled in a tense behind-the-scenes debate over President Obama’s push to scale back the nearly century-old tax deduction on donations that the charities say is crucial for their financial health.

In a series of recent meetings and calls, top White House aides have pressed nonprofit groups to line up behind the president’s plan for reducing the federal deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff,” according to people familiar with the talks.

In part, the White House is seeking to win the support of nonprofit groups for Obama’s central demand that income tax rates rise for upper-end taxpayers. There are early signs that several charities, whose boards often include the wealthy, are willing to endorse this change.

But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services in America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction.

“It’s all castor oil,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group representing many nonprofits. “And the members of the nonprofit sector I represent don’t want any part of it. It’s a medicine we’re not willing to drink.”
(Read more here.)

If the government cuts off deductions for charitable giving, where will that leave the many non-profits out there? Where, especially will it leave those non-profits who have the temerity to oppose the ruling powers in government?

I think it will leave them in a position where they either have to go to the government itself for additional funding, or curtail their activities. This, of course, would mean that those non-profits which please government leaders, particularly politicians, would become powerful and that their relationship with these politicians would tend toward a kind of political/social/financial incest.

Those non-profits with the temerity to oppose these powerful people would see their influence wither and weaken. NGOs have been the voice of conscience in far too many situations around the world for moves to constrict their funding to be a benign act.

That is where I think the administration’s ploy to reduce charitable tax-exemptions by the wealthy is heading. I’ve been hearing behind-the-scenes rumbling about plans to bring non-profits under the government heel for over a year now. This move makes me think that they are more than rumblings.

By linking the idea of reducing deductions for non-profit donations with the very popular idea of having the wealthy pay more of their fair share of the cost of government, the Obama administration has been able to slip this by the public with very little attention.

That’s great news for Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood seems to have the President’s unwavering commitment. The Affordable Health Care Act is a plenteous bounty for Planned Parenthood. The administration has been willing to go to the wall in moves to attack organizations that Planned Parenthood regards as enemies. It’s even gone so far as to take on the First Amendment to attack the Catholic Church.

Based on all that, I’m not inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt about this move to limit deductions for charitable donations. I think, given recent history in these matters, that would be almost childishly foolish.

 

Dozens of Michigan Schools Close Due to Rumors of Violence

Dozens of Michigan schools cancelled classes today because of fall-out from the Sandy Hook tragedy, combined with the Mayan calendar nonsense.

This is just a symptom of how raw the people of this nation are this week.

It raises the question that I asked here. Why did our leader rush this country into a divisive debate on gun control before the victims of this latest atrocity were even buried?

Grieving our losses and trying to bring ourselves and our families together for a holy and healing Christmas are about all the people of this country can handle right now.

Aside from executive orders, which I think would be terribly unwise, there is nothing that can be done until after the New Year. Congress and the president are engaged in an insult-slinging fight over the “fiscal cliff.” Isn’t playing chicken with our economic security enough trauma from Washington for now?

A wise leader understands that there is a time for everything. I believe that opening a debate about solutions — especially when the proposed solutions are things that divide us — is poor leadership in this sensitive time. I think it is uncaring leadership. By that I mean that I think the president has focused on taking advantage of what he sees as a political opportunity and ignored  the well-being of the American people. There was no practical reason why he had to open this debate this week. None.

The Associated Press article about school closings in Michigan reads in part:

DETROIT (AP) — Dozens of Michigan schools canceled classes for thousands of students to cool off rumored threats of violence and problems related to doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar, officials said Thursday.

Public schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties, neighboring counties north of the Detroit area, started the Christmas break Wednesday night rather than hold classes the rest of the week. Meanwhile, police investigated whether students made false claims about guns at the high school in Grand Blanc, saidJohn Potbury, a spokesman for the Genesee County prosecutor.

Last week’s shooting at a Connecticut elementary school “changed all of us. … Canceling school is the right thing to do,” Genesee County schools said in a statement. (Read more here.)

 


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X