‘After you’ dance on ‘fiscal cliff’ deadline

Senate back, House returning, parties call on other side to budge

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He also said Mr. Obama would have to forgo his demands for tens of billions of dollars in new stimulus spending, including an extension of unemployment benefits.

When he left for Hawaii, Mr. Obama hoped that all sides would “cool off” over Christmas, but those hopes were dashed.

Mr. Boehner on Wednesday reiterated his demand that the Senate act next, and Mr. Reid opened the Senate on Thursday by mocking Mr. Boehner for giving the House the week off.

“He shouldn’t have let them go,” the Nevada Democrat said. “John Boehner seems to care more about keeping his speakership than keeping the nation on a firm financial footing.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, also pleaded for the House to return, taking to a near-empty chamber to wonder where everyone was.

“Some of us are here in this chamber today, but very frankly, all of us ought to be here in this chamber today,” said Mr. Hoyer, surrounded by two of his Democratic colleagues. Only one Republican, Rep. Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio, was in the chamber, as the presiding officer.

For the past six days, Mr. Reid and Mr. Boehner have stared at each other from afar, each asking the other to take the next step.

Mr. Boehner said his chamber passed two other bills earlier this year to head off the tax increases and told the Senate to act on those.

Mr. Reid said the Senate has defeated those, and instead pointed to a bill the Senate passed that would extend tax cuts on families making $250,000 or less but let tax rates rise on others. That bill, however, originated in the Senate, in violation of the Constitution, which requires all revenue measures to start in the House.

Mr. Boehner blinked first Thursday in deciding to call the House into session beginning Sunday night, with less than 30 hours to go before the tax increases take effect.

Taken together, the tax increases and spending cuts likely would plunge the economy into a short, sharp recession, though the Congressional Budget Office says in the long run they will leave a better economy and dramatically improve the federal government’s balance sheet.

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