Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Obama-Boehner 'fiscal cliff' handshake: Could it actually hold?

After a friendly meeting on the ‘fiscal cliff’, President Obama shook hands with House Speaker John Boehner. Maybe it’s the holiday spirit, but there’s cautious optimism that bipartisanship might not be dead in Washington after all.

By Staff writer / November 17, 2012

President Barack Obama acknowledges House Speaker John Boehner at the White House in Washington Friday as he hosted a meeting of the congressional leadership to discuss the deficit and the economy.

Carolyn Kaster/AP



Fresh from reelection, President Obama met Friday with leaders of an unpopular Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, to discuss how to avoid leaving the most powerful country in the world hanging like Wile E. Coyote off a “fiscal cliff.”

Skip to next paragraph

It was the first such powwow in six months. And as it broke up and members headed out of town for Thanksgiving, Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner reached across the table for a warm handshake – a brief grip that seemed to encapsulate an electorate’s cautious hope that a polarized government could strike a deal that raises revenues while downsizing entitlement programs and other spending that have begun to threaten the nation’s solvency.

So, will – can – that “fiscal cliff” handshake hold?

To be sure, the reelection of President Obama sent a powerful message to Republicans, who for the first time since a tea party wave in 2010 yanked the House into a staunch antitax position felt they had room to take a different tack from the corrosive 2011 debt limit standoff that created a set of automatic spending cuts to take effect Jan 1. Along with the looming end to the Bush tax cuts, those spending cuts comprise the “fiscal cliff” that some fear could plunge the country into recession, or worse.

On the other hand, the election gave Democrats more a deadline than a mandate, a sort of affirmation that Obama’s legacy could well ride on his handling of America’s rough-idling economy.

RECOMMENDED: Could 'fiscal cliff' push US into recession? Four questions answered.

A lot is at stake over the next few days as staffers begin to work out the details of the outline that Congressional leaders said they agreed to.

For now at least, President Obama is holding to his demand that families earning more than $250,000 chip in more taxes, which he says could bring in $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years.

Speaker Boehner says Republicans are willing to consider additional revenues. Whether he meant new taxes remains unclear. But on its face, the statement indicated a change from the summer of 2011, when a majority of Americans concluded that tea party Republicans were actively seeking gridlock in order to force Democrats toward spending cuts.

“To show our seriousness, we’ve put revenue on the table as long as it’s accompanied by significant spending cuts,” said Boehner.

Commenting on a recent Washington Post-Pew Research poll that shows 53 percent of Americans leaning toward blaming Republicans again if Congress can’t strike a deal with Obama, columnist Froma Harrop notes that, “Understanding this, thoughtful Republicans are feeling freer to risk the tea partyers’ wrath and cooperate with Democrats. The teams may disagree on much, but at least they’re now playing in the same ballpark.”


  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!