U.S. lawmakers are expressing no hardened bargaining positions on debt
negotiations aimed at finding an alternative to massive tax hikes and
deep spending cuts that will automatically take effect January 1.
Democrats and Republicans say they will have to embrace measures that
will displease base supporters of their respective parties to avert the
so-called “fiscal cliff” and cut America’s trillion-dollar federal
U.S. legislators are returning from a Thanksgiving holiday recess with
an overriding concern: how to put America’s fiscal house in order
without endangering a fragile economic recovery. An initial round of
post-election debt discussions between the White House and congressional
leaders yielded no clear signs of progress. With negotiations set to
resume, lawmakers took to U.S. airwaves Sunday to stress their
willingness to consider politically-painful choices necessary for a
Republican Congressman Peter King spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press program.
“We should not be taking ironclad positions," he said.
That view was echoed by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin on ABC’s This
Week program. “Put everything on the table. We can solve this problem,"
several Republican lawmakers say they are willing to set aside pledges
made years ago that they would never vote for additional tax revenue and
pursue deficit reduction through spending cuts alone. Republican Senator
Lindsey Graham on This Week said, “I will violate the [no-tax] pledge.
Republicans should put revenue on the table.”
Similarly, Senator Durbin said Democrats must risk angering their
party’s base supporters by embracing cost-saving reforms to programs
that provide health care for retirees. “We want Medicare to be there for
today’s senior and tomorrow’s, as well. We can make meaningful reforms
without compromising the integrity of the program," he said.
To be sure, partisan differences remain. Republicans say the best way to
boost government revenue is to limit tax deductions, rather than
boosting tax rates on the wealthy, as President Barack Obama and
Democratic lawmakers desire. While Democrats agree that costs will have
to be contained for Medicare, they remain strongly opposed to Republican
proposals to radically overhaul the program.
But the absence of partisan lines drawn in the sand is a departure from
last year’s debt negotiations that failed to yield an accord, prompting
a downgrade of U.S. creditworthiness.
Congressman King said, “The speaker [of the House], the majority leader
[of the Senate], and the president are going to be in a room trying to
find the best [debt reduction] package. I do not want to prejudge any of
this. We cannot go off the fiscal cliff. We have to show the world we
are adults. The election is over.”
For years, public opinion polls have shown that Americans overwhelmingly
crave compromise and bipartisanship over ideological inflexibility and
gridlock in Washington. Economists say the United States risks another
economic recession if no debt deal is struck and automatic tax hikes and
spending cuts actually take effect next year.