'Fiscal cliff'? 'Sequester'? Your guide to Congress's code language.

Members of Congress know what they mean by terms such as 'fiscal cliff' or 'Simpson-Bowles,' but to many outside the Beltway they may as well be speaking Greek. Here's a translation of Washington's shorthand terminology for budgetary issues now before the country – with each entry explained in 50 words or less.  

1. Fiscal cliff

Evan Vucci/AP/File
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tells the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nov. 15, 2011, that draconian, automatic defense spending cuts set to begin in 2013 would endanger national security, invite aggression, and devastate Defense Department operations.

An economic precipice, created by law in summer 2011, that threatens to cast the US back into recession; a fiscal hit of up to $720 billion over time, starting Jan. 1, 2013, caused by the expiration of a host of tax cuts and the onset of $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. 

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