Reid Calls on Republicans to Return to Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

Less than 24 hours after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, abandoned a planned vote on legislation that would have extended the Bush-era tax cuts for taxpayers with incomes up to $1-million annually (TAXDAY, 2012/12/21, C.1 ), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged Republicans to return to negotiations, saying any comprehensive solution to the looming fiscal cliff requires a bipartisan solution. “No comprehensive agreement can pass either chamber without both Democratic votes and Republican votes. It’s time for Speaker Boehner to return to the negotiating table ready to compromise,” said Reid from the Senate floor on December 21.

Reid reiterated his call for Boehner, in the meantime, to bring the Middle Class Tax Cut Bill (Sen 3412 ), passed by the Senate in July (TAXDAY, 2012/07/26, C.1 ) to the floor of the House for a vote. “The clock is ticking until the nation goes over the fiscal cliff and taxes go up for every family in America. But there’s still time for Speaker Boehner to hit the brakes and avoid the cliff,” said Reid. Sen 3412 extends the Bush-era tax cuts to those with incomes under $250,000.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., responded to Reid’s suggestion with one of his own—a vote on a House-approved bill (the Job Protection and Recession Prevention Bill of 2012 (HR 8 )) that would extend for all incomes the middle-class tax relief enacted in 2001 and 2003 for one year (TAXDAY, 2012/08/02, C.2 ). “If Sen. Reid has a plan that can get 60 votes in the Senate, break through the disarray in his own caucus and build bipartisan support, offer that as an amendment and then let’s vote. Let’s vote on amendments from all sides,” said McConnell. “And then let’s go to conference with the House of Representatives. They’ve already passed a bill, one that I support, to prevent a tax hike on all Americans and reform the tax code. Let’s take it up here and get this done.”

McConnell went on to defend Boehner’s actions the previous night, saying it was not the speaker’s job to find a comprehensive plan that can pass Congress. “Look: It’s the president’s job to find a solution that can pass Congress. He’s the only one who can do it,” said McConnell.

Obama Press Conference

President Obama held a late afternoon press conference on December 21 to urge lawmakers to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff that could be signed into law before the end of 2012. Obama said that, although time is running out, Congress should be able to fashion a balanced plan that protects 98 percent of Americans from tax increases and strengthens the U.S. economy. He added that reaching a deal could require several steps and he called on Congress to listen to an American public that is more willing to compromise than their elected officials. “We’re going to have to find some common ground,” he stated. “Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want.”

Obama said he would be working with congressional leaders to craft an agreement that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for two-million Americans and lays the groundwork for further economic growth and deficit reductions. “That’s an achievable goal,” he noted, adding that, once the agreement is completed, Congress should return to Washington after Christmas and send him legislation that he will sign.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Republicans are ready to work with the president to fix Washington’s spending problem. He said the House would return to Washington when needed to pass tax legislation. Joining Boehner in a press conference, Cantor said Senate lawmakers should get serious about addressing federal spending so that the economy grows and jobs are created. “We do have a House bill that sits in the Senate, that extended tax rates for all Americans,” Boehner said. He noted that the upper chamber will not considerHR 8 . “If the Senate wants to act on that bill, we’ll certainly take a look at it,” he said.

By Jeff Carlson and Stephen K. Cooper, CCH News Staff

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