News / USA

As US Congress Reconvenes, Budget Challenges Loom

x
Michael Bowman
The U.S. Congress returned to work Tuesday after a long election-season recess, and immediately resumed debate on America’s fiscal woes. The election has not erased sharp partisan differences on how best to reduce America’s trillion-dollar federal deficit, nor boost a still-fragile economic recovery.
 
Last week, Americans re-elected President Barack Obama, widened a Democratic majority in the Senate, and trimmed a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
 
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin hailed the election results.

“And when it was all over - thank the Lord - it was decisive. The president won a majority of the popular vote, as well as a strong majority of electoral votes. The outcome was not in doubt when it was all over," said Durbin.
 

What is the U.S. Fiscal Cliff?

  • An agreement intended to force politicians to compromise and make deals.
  • Without a deal by January 1, 2013, sharp spending cuts would hit military and social programs.
  • Tax hikes also would go into effect.
  • The combination would reduce economic activity, and could boost unemployment and push the nation back into recession.
Democrats argue the American people endorsed the president’s fiscal prescription: higher taxes for the wealthy, combined with spending restraint that does not hurt the poor and vulnerable.
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
 
“It is within our power to forge an agreement that will ask the richest of the rich, the most fortunate among us, to pay a little extra to reduce the deficit and secure our economic future," he said.
 
Republicans have a different view. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued the election simply reaffirmed the current balance of power in Washington: a Democratic president who must work with a politically-divided Congress.
 
“Look out across the heartland [of America], and you will see vast regions of the country wary of the president’s vision for the future," he said.
 
McConnell said Republicans in Congress will continue to give voice to that wariness, especially on fiscal matters, and will champion spending cuts and government program reforms as the best way forward.
 
“Half the Congress opposes tax hikes. Not because we are selfish, not because we are stubborn, but [because] we know it is the wrong thing to do. We know it will hurt the economy, and we know it will destroy jobs," said McConnell.
 
Unless the U.S. Congress acts by year’s end, federal taxes will rise for all income groups, and across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect.  Economists say the combination of tax hikes and budget cuts - commonly known as the fiscal cliff - could send the U.S. economy back into recession.
 
But the automatic raising of taxes far in excess of what Democrats seek has led some of the party’s most-liberal members to suggest that plunging off the fiscal cliff would be preferable to a compromise deal with Republicans - if, indeed, one can be forged at all.
 
That thinking is rejected by the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
 
“I want you to be disabused of any notion that there is any widespread thought that it would be a good thing for our country to go over the cliff. We want an agreement," said Pelosi.
 
In the week since the election, President Obama and congressional leaders of both parties have urged bipartisanship and pledged to work with political opponents for the common good.  That will be put to the test later this week, when they meet with President Obama for the first post-election round of fiscal negotiations.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid