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Uneasy fix to ‘fiscal cliff’ in works
Both parties profess optimism
It won't be easy and it won't be perfect, but Congress and the president will find a way to avoid having the nation's economy go over the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year, lawmakers from both parties predicted Sunday.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, led a chorus of congressional leaders making cautiously optimistic predictions Sunday that the ongoing budget negotiations between Republicans and Democrats will stave off the automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect at the start of next year.
Citing last week's uptick in the stock market, Mr. Durbin said the outlook is positive.
"They should be optimistic, because we can solve this problem. Unfortunately, for the last 10 days, with the House and Congress gone for the Thanksgiving recess ... much progress hasn't been made. But tomorrow, there's no excuse. We're back in town."
His comments were echoed on the other side of the partisan divide, on a weekend when several top Republicans said Grover Norquist's "no new taxes" pledge may have to be scrapped.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, predicted that the two parties will come to a deal — at least a stopgap measure — to avoid going over the fiscal cliff.
"I think it's likely that there will be a solution — not a final solution by any means, and not a big solution — but will get us through the end of the year into next year with a plan for trying to deal with these issues long-term over the course of the next Congress," Mr. Kyl said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN. "That will require compromise."
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, appearing on the same program, agreed.
"We will come up with a way forward. Do I think we're going to do everything by the end of this year? Probably not, but I think we will not have a fiscal cliff," the Texas Republican said.
Mrs. Hutchison and Mr. Kyl were joined on "State of the Union" by two other retiring members of Congress, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
Mr. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, warned that an agreement on avoiding the fiscal cliff was "not a done deal."
"If Congress does nothing, which Congress has gotten pretty good at doing these days, we'll go over the fiscal cliff," he said. "There's work to be done and compromises to be reached."
The odds of lawmakers breaking the gridlock over the country's long-term budget negotiations improved considerably in recent days as more Republicans have indicated a willingness to buck Mr. Norquist and abandon the Americans for Tax Reform's anti-tax pledge.
Rep. Peter T. King, a New York Republican, said Sunday that the long-standing pledge, signed by almost every Republican in Congress, may not be applicable anymore.
"The world has changed and the economic situation is different," Mr. King said on NBC's "Meet the Press," before making a historical analogy.
"If I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a declaration of war against Japan," he said. "I'm not going to attack Japan today.
"The bottom line is that we can't have sequestration, we can't go off the fiscal cliff," Mr. King said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said flatly that he is willing to violate Mr. Norquist's pledge if Democrats agree to cuts in entitlement programs. Mr. Graham said he still opposes increasing tax rates but that he supports capping deductions to help the federal government balance its books.
"I agree with Grover we shouldn't raise rates, but I think Grover is wrong when it comes to [not capping] deductions," Mr. Graham said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
On Friday, two days after Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said, "I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Mr. Norquist fired back with a warning that lawmakers who break the pledge will face consequences from their own constituents, not him.
If Mr. Chambliss "wants to change his mind and become a tax increaser so we don't have to reform government, he needs to have that conversation with the people of Georgia," Mr. Norquist said on CNN.
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About the Author
David Eldridge joined The Washington Times in 1999 and over the next seven years helped lead the paper’s coverage of regional politics and government, Sept. 11, and the sniper attacks of 2002. In 2006, he was named managing editor of the paper’s Web site. He came to The Times from the Telegraph in North Platte, Neb., where he served as ...
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