Any fiscal-cliff deal cut today would pale against expectations
Whether negotiated in a rush before the new year or left for early January, the fiscal deal President Barack Obama and Congress cobble together will be far smaller than what they initially envisioned as an alternative to purposefully distasteful tax increases and spending cuts.
Instead, their deal, if a deal can be indeed cut, will put off some big decisions about tax and entitlement changes and leave other deadlines in place that will likely lead to similar moments of brinkmanship, some in just a matter of weeks.
Republican and Democratic negotiators in the Senate were hoping for a deal as early as today on what threshold to set for increased tax rates, whether to keep current inheritance tax rates and exemptions and how to pay for jobless benefits and avoid cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. Senate leaders were hoping to be able to present their members with a plan when the parties meet separately on Capitol Hill Sunday afternoon.
An agreement would halt automatic across-the-board tax increases for virtually every American and perhaps temporarily put off some steep spending cuts in defense and domestic programs.
Obama pressed lawmakers to start where both sides say they agree — sparing middle-class families from looming tax hikes.
“If we can get that done, that takes a big bite out of the fiscal cliff. It avoids the worst outcomes. And we’re then going to have some tough negotiations in terms of how we continue to reduce the deficit, grow the economy, create jobs,” Obama said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired today.
Gone, however, is the talk of a grand deal that would tackle broad spending and revenue demands and set the nation on a course to lower deficits. Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner were once a couple hundred billion dollars apart of a deal that would have reduced the deficit by more than $2 trillion over ten years.