News / USA

    Internal Pressures Complicate 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks

    U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporers. Sharp differences remained between congressional Republicans and the White House in talks to avert the "fiscal cliff,"  Dec. 14, 2012.
    U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporers. Sharp differences remained between congressional Republicans and the White House in talks to avert the "fiscal cliff," Dec. 14, 2012.
    President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders are still searching for a compromise deficit-reduction plan in order to avoid about half a trillion dollars worth of mandatory tax increases and budget cuts that would go into effect January 1.  Some of the political realities are making it difficult to reach a compromise.

    For years, Republicans have been elected to Congress vowing to fight any Democratic attempts to raise taxes.  Scores of Republican candidates have signed pledges promising voters they would resist new taxes, a key priority for many of the conservative activists and fundraisers who provide critical support to Republican candidates.

    Fiscal cliff


    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.
    In the ongoing negotiations to avoid the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ of higher taxes and budget cuts, Republicans prefer to emphasize the need to cut government spending, including House Speaker John Boehner. “Washington has a spending problem that can’t be fixed with tax increases alone,” he said.

    But for President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress, their main focus is raising taxes on the wealthy in their negotiating stance with Republicans.

    Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans support a tax hike on those making more than $250,000 a year, and President Obama highlighted the issue during his successful re-election campaign.

    Democrats are less interested in large-scale cuts in so-called government entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  These programs provide health care to the elderly, the poor and disabled and offer a basic pension for many Americans.

    Republican demands

    Some Republicans are demanding significant reforms in entitlement programs to cut costs in the long term, such as raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 years old.

    But that is a non-starter for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

    “Don’t even think about raising the Medicare [eligibility] age.  We are not throwing America’s seniors over the cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America,” she asserted.

    Enormous internal pressures are at work on both sides during the fiscal cliff negotiations.
     
    A group of 140 conservative leaders signed an open letter to congressional Republicans warning them not to compromise with the president on taxes.

    Morton Blackwell, president of a conservative group called the Leadership Institute, organized the effort and says those Republicans in Congress who cooperate with the president may face conservative challengers in future primary elections.

    “It is not only wrong for the country, but it would be dangerous for their own political careers if they caved in and allowed President Obama progress on his agenda," Blackwell stated.  "They have the power to stop bad things from happening.”

    Opposing views

    The stalemate over the fiscal cliff negotiations is also a clash of vastly different views on the size and role of the central government.

    Steven Smith, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, says Democrats continue to believe that government has a crucial role to play in society.

    “They would like to see it at a higher level of spending and revenues so that the federal government was playing a larger role in addressing a variety of social problems.  The Republicans would like a lower level of revenues and spending so that the federal government would have a smaller role in the economy,” Smith said.

    But even some Republicans say their party should heed the results from last month’s election where the president won re-election and Democrats gained seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

     “It was a clear signal, as far as I am concerned, that we want our leaders, we want our government officials to work together," noted Ken Duberstein, who served as White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan. "To resolve the major fiscal issues and other issues.”

    Optimism

    Some lawmakers remain optimistic.  

    “If we can demonstrate to the rest of the world that we can come together and resolve these issues through compromise, then the rest of the world’s money will end up being invested here because we are that beacon of hope,” said Democratic Congressman John Larson of Connecticut in an interview with the CSPAN public affairs TV network.

    Recent polls show about two-thirds of Americans want the two sides to reach a compromise to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff that could plunge the economy back into recession.

    The latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found 56 percent of those surveyed would blame both sides equally if compromise efforts fail.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora