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.
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One big question is whether the House, where a tea party caucus still has the power to scuttle a deal, will agree to new taxes without philosophical concessions from Democrats in return.Skip to next paragraph
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There’s been talk in tea party circles about ending tax breaks for specific interests with ties to liberals, such as Hollywood’s entertainment industry, and even limiting the amount Americans can write off as charitable donations. Some Republicans have also pushed for a “minimum tax” that all Americans have to pay, so that the approximately 47 percent of Americans who don’t mail the government a check every year have, as pundits have put it, “skin in the game.”
But on more concrete points, political experts noted that the meeting between Obama, Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave some clues as to a path forward.
Most importantly, both sides signaled that they are willing to fight elements in their own parties in order to get a deal done. Democrats signaled this by saying that entitlement reform is on the table; Republicans did so by suggesting that they’ll entertain new sources of revenue.
Moreover, a Democratic aide who sat in on the meeting told Reuters that Republicans appeared to outline their position even more clearly by what they didn’t say, including a possible concession on Obama’s insistence that wealthier Americans should pay more taxes.
"The major development of the meeting was we made it clear our position is ... we should freeze tax rates for the middle class and raise rates on the top [income] families," the aide told the wire service. "It was notable that neither Boehner nor McConnell shot that idea down."
To be sure, the glimmers of optimism that emerged from Friday’s meeting may flicker and fade. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, told the New York Times that “it’s gotten harder after the election [to compromise]. As you might imagine, positions have hardened.”
How deep the compromises go, and how firm the handshake between Obama and Boehner really is, will play out in short order as Congress has only weeks to strike a deal.
“Our challenge is to make sure that we are able to cooperate together, work together, find some common ground, make some tough compromises, build some consensus, and to do the people’s business,” Obama said.