Obama: Let’s Make a (Smaller) Deal

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 22 2012 6:41 AM

Obama Urges Action, Heads To Hawaii

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President Obama delivers a statement on the fiscal cliff at the White House

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The clock is ticking and there’s really no chance of any kind of big compromise on the impending “fiscal cliff” so the time has come to do the bare minimum, President Obama said at the White House late Friday. Then he got on a plane for his annual vacation to Hawaii. But the trip is likely to be a short one this year, points out the Washington Post. Obama will likely return to Washington the day after Christmas to continue talks with Congressional leaders in the hopes of reaching at least a short-term fiscal cliff deal. Before boarding his plane, Obama called on Congress to approve a measure that would at least prevent a tax hike for all but the richest taxpayers while also extend benefits for the long-term unemployed, reports the Associated Press. (Watch the statement after the jump.)

"In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction," Obama said. "That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days."

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The statement seems to be Obama’s way of offering lawmakers, who are having trouble agreeing on anything, to at least pass the easy stuff while kicking the can on the more difficult issues such as spending cuts and extending the debt ceiling, reports Reuters. Even as Obama expressed optimism that such a deal could become a reality, Politico warns that “even a narrow proposal to avert the fiscal cliff won’t be easy to pass through Congress.” After all, House Speaker John Boehner failed to get fellow Republicans to support a measure that would extend the tax cuts for those who made less than $1 million a year—all but around 400,000 households.

"We've only got 10 days to do it. So I hope that every member of Congress is thinking about that. Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want," Obama said. Obama urged lawmakers to use the holiday break as an opportunity to “cool off” and take a look at the big picture. "As we leave town for a few days to be with our families, it will give us some perspective," Obama said, adding that lawmakers should "drink some egg nog.”

For now, the plan seems to be that the Senate would meet to pass a compromise bill next Thursday but in order for that to happen Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, would have to agree not to filibuster and Boehner would have to agree that the House would vote on whatever bill the Senate passes. While it would seem to make sense that Boehner would allow the vote considering the pressure he’s under, “doing so could threaten his already weakened speakership among conservatives,” points out the New York Times.

Although Democrats have long said they wanted to extend tax cuts to households with income below $250,000 a year, they have signaled they would be willing to increase that to $500,000 a year. For now it seems Democratic senators would likely push for the stripped down bill regardless, essentially challenging Republicans to block the proposal and take the nation over the fiscal cliff, according to Politico.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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