Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Heading Toward The Cliff

Negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill aimed at avoiding the fiscal cliff have reportedly broken down. Frustrated by President Obama’s resistance to further spending cuts, Speaker John Boehner announced yesterday that the House of Representatives will vote this evening on two bills.

One cuts spending by $200 billion while minimizing the national security impact of planned sequestration cuts. The second bill extends the Bush tax cuts for everyone making less than $1 million a year.

Boehner’s approach has divided conservatives, some of whom fear his concession on tax hikes, even on millionaires, is giving up too much. On the other hand, taxes on everyone will go up automatically on January 1st if nothing is done. Boehner is putting forward a plan initially proposed by liberals like Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer and daring them to oppose it now.

And, of course, they are. Senate Democrats have declared Boehner’s “Plan B” dead on arrival. President Obama has vowed to veto it should it pass. If he does, Boehner hopes the public will understand that it is Obama’s fault when everyone’s taxes go up on January 1st.

Meanwhile, the IRS is warning that millions of taxpayers may not be able to file their returns until late March. Worse, they may owe thousands of dollars in additional taxes if the alternative minimum tax is not adjusted.

With just 11 days left, the prospects for a deal to avoid going over the fiscal cliff seem as remote as ever.

Public Not Keen On More Gun Control

Yesterday we told about an ABC News/Washington Post poll that found little public demand for gun control even in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings. The results were surprising given all the rhetoric in Washington about how the Newtown tragedy fundamentally changed the political landscape.

The left had better tread carefully. The ABC/Post wasn’t a fluke. Gallup has released a survey with similar results. When asked what steps would be most effective in preventing mass shootings at schools, the most popular prevention idea was increasing the police presence on school campuses.

Next was increased spending on mental health treatment, followed by cracking down on gun violence in the popular culture (TV, movies and video games). Gun control legislation came in fourth on the list!

Reid Ready To Go Nuclear

For all of the rhetoric about the need for compromise in Washington, Harry Reid is getting ready to make sure that there is less of it in the Senate. Frustrated by Senate rules that protect minority party rights, Reid is determined to severely limit the right to debate an issue without time limits (filibuster) so he can ram through whatever he wants.

In addition, Reid is planning to break the Senate’s rules in order to change the rules. Normally changing the Senate’s rules would require a two-thirds super-majority vote. Next year, Democrats will have only 55 votes. So Reid is planning to change the rules with a bare majority of 51 votes by using the so-called “nuclear option.”

The move is so controversial, it’s not at all clear that Reid has 51 votes for it. The New York Times recently reported that several Democrats were opposed to the idea or leaned against it. Click here to learn more.