President Obama can do little to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff with House Republicans before the new year. PHOTO: Reuters
It's the season for countdowns! As we count the seconds down to 2013, we wll probably also be counting the moments until we go flying over the fiscal cliff. Here are the top 5 reasons, from 5 on down, why champagne and kisses will come with a healthy dose of fiscal cliff tax hikes and sequestration cuts:
5. Washington is made of molasses.
Seriously, it gets really sticky in the summer. And more seriously, bills in Congress move about as quickly as mountains. Obviously the fiscal cliff bill will be rushed at top speed, but top speed might not be enough to get this done in three days.
4. Obama and Boehner are not that close on a fiscal cliff deal.
Yes, things were looking optimistic in fiscal cliff land last week when both sides agreed to tough concessions, starting with Boehner finally coughing out an increase in tax rates on income over a million dollars, but the good news ended there, and the last dispatch from the fiscal cliff negotiations had the two sides far apart.
3. John Boehner does not have control of his caucus.
So, let's say Obama and Boehner defy reason number three and hash out a deal in the next 24 hours. The Senate defies reason number one and passes the fiscal cliff avoiding bill. We have to assume that the bill will include at least some increase on income over at least a million (more likely half a million) dollars. House Democrats vote for it, but House Republicans? Read on.
2. House Republicans are only worried about getting primaried.
Gerrymandering (whole 'nother topic) has left many House Republicans in safe seats, provided their party continues to nominate them for the next election. That means that they don't have to play toward the political center, they have to worry about another Republican saying, "This guy gave into Obama on the fiscal cliff and voted to raise taxes! He's an unamerican socialist!" Therefore the safe thing to do for their political careers (though not for the economy) is to continue to vote against any tax increase, however sane.
1. Neither Obama nor House Republicans will bend on tax increases.
Obama spent too much of his first term negotiating with himself. Now that he's finally done with that, he is no longer offering Republicans deals heavily skewed toward what Republicans want, especially on mega-bills like the ones he has offered in the fiscal cliff negotiations. Compromise is still a dirty word among House (and most Senate) Republicans, so even if that means the reality of sending us over the fiscal cliff and taxes going up on everyone, not voting for a tax increase is Republican gospel, and they will be true to their word.
Oh, and Happy New Year!