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‘Fiscal cliff’ political follies

By Kay Bell ·
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

We're another day closer to falling off the so-called fiscal cliff, and it's really starting to look like that will happen.

The reason is not financial. Everyone in Washington, D.C., and beyond agrees that lawmakers should do all they can to stop the perfect storm of expiring tax laws, mandated spending cuts and the end of the country's ability to borrow money, which the Treasury secretary has announced also will happen on Dec. 31.

And reports from Capitol Hill are that Congress and the White House are not really that far apart.

But politics is getting in the way.

And you thought we were through with that in November. Ah, to be so naive again.

After House Speaker John Boehner was unable to convince his Republican colleagues to support his fiscal cliff Plan B solution, he realized that while the Tea Party conservatives in his party were weakened somewhat in the last election, they still have some power.

The fear that such political power could be wielded in the coming 2014 midterm elections has some other GOP members worried that a vote for a tax increase, even on millionaires as Boehner proposed, would doom them in two years.

That's right. An election in November 2014 is driving fiscal decisions in 2012.

But, so goes the thinking, if they wait and let the Bush tax cuts expire and then vote for a proposal that brings back most of them, that is, the current bottom four individual tax rates (10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent and 28 percent), they'll be OK with the voters because they voted for tax cuts.

There's also the political issue of who will be in charge of the House; specifically, will Boehner remain speaker?

There have been some rumblings that the Ohio Republican could face a challenge for the speakership from the party's more conservative segment. We'll know the answer on Jan. 3, when Representatives make the speaker position official.

Consensus in Washington is that Boehner will retain the gavel.

Consensus in Washington also is that Boehner then will be in a better position to corral his recalcitrant right-wing colleagues and work with the Democrats in the House.

Yes, it does sounds like the country is being run by a group of high school students, facing off in their different cliques and vying for power. And the rest of us classmates just have to wait for the power struggle to play out.

Here's hoping that we don't suffer too much damage, as individuals or as a nation, while these out-of-control kids run amok.

In the meantime, I'm going to rent the 1999 movie "Election." You remember it, the one with Reese Witherspoon as a calculating candidate for president of her high school class and the machinations and dirty tricks that ensue.

At least there are some laughs and an interesting soundtrack in the movie.

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December 31, 2012 at 11:00 pm

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