News / USA

US Congress Shows No Urgency on 'Fiscal Cliff'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012.
Michael Bowman
Four days before Americans face massive automatic tax increases and deep federal spending cuts, Washington is showing no signs of forging a deficit reduction agreement to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.”  Many lawmakers are absent from Washington altogether, and the rest are pointing fingers and casting blame.
 
Watching official Washington, one might not know the nation is teetering on the edge of the fiscal cliff. President Barack Obama returned from a Hawaiian vacation Thursday with no events on his schedule.  
 
The House of Representatives is adjourned until Sunday.  The Senate is in session, but debating a bill governing U.S. intelligence gathering, not the fiscal cliff.
 
That the House is closed for business at a critical time was noted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
 
“I cannot imagine their consciences. They [House members] are out wherever they are around the country, and we are here trying to get something done," he said. 
 
The House adjourned last week after Republican Speaker John Boehner failed to muster enough votes to pass an extension of federal tax rates for all income up to $1 million a year, far above the $250,000 cut-off sought by Democrats.
 
A clearly frustrated Reid accused Boehner of employing heavy-handed tactics to block legislation and cast America off the fiscal cliff.
 
“The House of Representatives is operating without the House of Representatives.  It is being operated with a dictatorship of the Speaker," he said. 
 
A spokesman for Speaker Boehner said, “Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more.”
 
In fact, both chambers are accusing the other of stymieing bills to avert the fiscal cliff.  A House-passed bill that would extend all tax cuts for all income groups has not been taken up in the Senate, while a Senate bill extending tax cuts for income up to $250,000 a year has not been considered in the House.
 
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, recounted a recent telephone conversation he had with President Obama.
 
“Last night I told the president we would be happy to look at whatever he proposes.  But the truth is, we are coming up against a hard deadline here.  This is a conversation we should have had months ago," he said. 
 
Political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia is doubtful a bipartisan deal can be forged by New Year’s Eve.
 
“It will take a miracle to keep us from going off the fiscal cliff.  The most likely scenario is that we do go off the cliff, and then Congress acts," he said. 
 
Sabato points out that Republicans who are loathe to vote for tax hikes now will not have to do so once taxes go up on all income groups on January 1.
 
“By then taxes will automatically have risen, dramatically, for most Americans.  Then, instead of having to vote on a tax increase, they can vote to decrease taxes, at least in some categories for some Americans," he said. 
 
Sabato says that however the fiscal cliff drama plays out, Washington has given itself another black eye, saying, “Congress has proven to be best at finger-pointing rather than legislating.”

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Kirk from: Kentucky
December 27, 2012 8:53 AM
If the US Congress, Senate and President--men and women elected by the people and paid by our tax dollars--can't reach a budget agreement, they shouldn't get paid nor receive ANY benefits until they do. That's how it works in ethical/small business. If you don't do your job for which you are employed, you don't get paid (a.k.a. you're fired).

In Response

by: Barney from: Canada
December 27, 2012 10:31 AM
Their job was to ensure that there was a retirement fund for when the baby-boomers retired. Failing to do so would have been irresponsible and negligent. Having a debt (especially a huge one) was criminal and fraud.

Reagan came up with his "Reaganomics" (we will collect more taxes if we lower the tax rate). This policy ballooned the debt from under $1T when Reagan got in to over $3 T when he left and $6 T under GHW Bush, then $12 T under Bush Jr. The rich fleeced the rest on Americans out of $12 T (plus the surplus fund that should have been in place). Romney and the Tea Party want to continue this policy that created the problem.

Never mind cutting them off their pay and firing them. They should be sued and jailed.

In Response

by: Steve from: Somerset, England
December 27, 2012 9:04 AM
It's not just about tax cuts, most of the problem is spending too much and half the economy run by government (which isn't very productive to say the least).

     

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid