Nearing The Fiscal Cliff

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Minutes ago, Obama urged Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff. After Obama's victory, Speaker John Boehner remarked that because "the American people expect us to find common ground, we are willing to accept some additional revenues, via tax reform." Suzy Khimm notes the déjà vu:

Boehner and Republicans have long promised to enact comprehensive tax reform that would curb tax exemptions as long as that reform lowered tax rates instead of raising them…. [I]t came up often in the closed-door negotiations between the Obama administration and Boehner last summer. In the end, though, those negotiations failed because Boehner couldn’t sell his caucus on a revenue number the Obama administration would accept.

She reframes:

[T]he question here isn’t whether Boehner is open to some new revenues through tax reform…. It’s whether his members are open to enough new revenues through tax reform such that they can actually strike a deal with the Obama administration.

Peter Orszag doubts House Republicans will play ball. Clive Crook agrees:

The economy’s prospects aren’t bright, Republicans will reason, and implementing the health-care reform will be a mess, especially if they can help it. In 2016, the party will have a better presidential candidate. (That much, they’ll decide, is obvious. What were they thinking, nominating Romney?) Time is on their side. Why should the Republicans give ground?

Stan Collender remains skeptical that Boehner has the clout to strike a deal:

[T]he tea party wing of the GOP has kept him on a very short leash for the past two years and has never really trusted him. It's not clear that the tea partiers will trust or follow him now.

However, Joshua Green argues the Republican position isn't nearly as strong as it was in 2010:

Despite their post-election tough talk, Republican leaders have dealt themselves a lousy hand. Obama can propose a “middle-class tax cut” for the 98 percent of American households earning less than $250,000 a year—while letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those earning more—and dare the Republicans to block it. If they do, everyone’s taxes will rise on Jan. 1. It’s true that going over the fiscal cliff, as some Democrats believe will happen, would set back the recovery and could eventually cause a recession. But Democratic leaders in Congress believe the public furor would be too intense for Republicans to withstand for long.

Jonathan Cohn makes the case that the election tilted the balance in Obama's favor:

Remember, when Obama and the Republicans were debating these issues in 2011, Obama was at his weakest. … Today, by contrast, the recovery seems to be well underway, with unemployment below 8 percent and, most likely, on the way down. Obama’s approval rating is up to 48 percent. He just won a presidential election, with a sizeable margin in the electoral college and a surprisingly comfortable margin in the popular vote.

Kevin Drum calls Boehner's bluff:

Boehner knows full well that his caucus will eat him alive, with Eric Cantor leading the charge, if he wavers on taxes, so he's adopting the same hardline position as he did last year but trying to pretend that it's some kind of kinder, gentler proposal. It's not. … [P]oll after poll shows big majorities in favor of higher rates on the rich. Opposing a broad, bipartisan tax cut because it's not friendly enough to the rich is a losing hand and Boehner knows it. He just can't admit it yet, so instead he hauled out the same tired talking points from a year ago and did his best to dress them up a little differently.

Chait explains why many liberals want to go over the cliff:

Going over the fiscal cliff and then doing nothing for another year would mean a huge tax hike and spending cut. But waiting until January would mean extremely gradual tax increases and spending cuts, ones that would not evenbegin to take place immediately, because Obama has the ability to delay their implementation. And even after they're implemented, the effect would be gradual, and could subsequently be canceled out. It’s like saying if you go three weeks without food you’ll die so if dinner isn’t on the table at 6 o'clock sharp terrible consequences will follow.

Ambinder suspects that dinner will be late:

Here's betting that Obama doesn't begin to really negotiate until the next Congress is seated. That means NO agreement about the Bush tax cuts until after the new year, and it probably means allowing the dreaded sequester cutbacks to start the budget process next year. Obama's ability to force Republicans to compromise will be at an apex when taxpayers are forced to reckon with an across-the-board increase in income tax rates and Republicans have to stomach that, as well as huge defense cuts. Obama might appear to negotiate now, because the stock market seems ready to punish him if there is no forward movement towards a deal.