News / USA

US Lawmakers at Odds on Averting 'Fiscal Cliff'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters on Capitol in Washington, Nov. 27, 2012.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters on Capitol in Washington, Nov. 27, 2012.
x
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters on Capitol in Washington, Nov. 27, 2012.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters on Capitol in Washington, Nov. 27, 2012.
Cindy Saine
U.S. lawmakers are back from their Thanksgiving holiday break, and now have less than five weeks to negotiate a deal to prevent massive tax increases and deep spending cuts - known as the "fiscal cliff" - that will automatically take effect January 1.  President Barack Obama is set to make his case to middle class Americans on higher taxes for the wealthy, as negotiations resume behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.  

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin gave a speech on averting the fiscal cliff Tuesday at the Center for American Progress, a research institute, in Washington.  Durbin called on Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote on a measure already passed by the Senate, that would prevent Bush-era tax cuts from expiring on most Americans, and only allow taxes to go up on incomes above $250,000 a year.

"With one vote, they can really avert the fiscal cliff for 98 percent of American families, at least when it comes to income taxes," said Durbin.

President Obama and congressional Democrats say the wealthiest Americans can afford to pay higher tax rates to help reign in American's trillion-dollar federal deficit.  But Republicans oppose raising the tax rates for anyone and say what is needed is serious reform to entitlements - social programs for the elderly and the poor that Democrats strongly defend.  Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said entitlements are threatening the nation's economic future and must be reformed to remain viable.

"We all know that the most critical steps to be taken are to save the entitlements, which are on an unsustainable path to bankruptcy," said McConnell.

Durbin conceded that progressive Democrats need to include social programs as part of any comprehensive solution to tackling the U.S. debt.

"Which means we need to be open to some topics, and some issues that are painful and hard for us to talk about," he said.

But Durbin made clear he believes that a major reform of social programs should not be part of a deal crafted by the end of the year to avert the fiscal cliff, but be taken up next year.

As the president prepared for a trip Wednesday to Pennsylvania to press his case before factory workers, Senator McConnell urged him to "stop campaigning" and take the lead on negotiations.

“So we’ll continue to wait on the president, and hope that he has what it takes to bring people together to forge a compromise.  If he does, we’ll get there.  If he doesn’t, we won’t.  It’s that simple," he said.

Senator Durbin said he is optimistic the fiscal cliff can be averted, and that next year, lawmakers can agree on a major overhaul of government spending and taxes, that will send a strong signal to the world that the U.S. economy is strong.

For now, there is no deal in sight, and White House staff members are meeting with staff members of Republican House Speaker John Boehner to discuss the tough issues of taxes and spending.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More