Fiscal cliff talks go to the brink, as lawmakers are optimistic for a deal; yet Republicans lack any incentive to deal; Huntsman: ”GOP devoid of a soul.”; Hillary Clinton hospitalized; Turner, Smith, dismissed from Chargers

Congress remained in session over the weekend as Republican and Democratic leaders met throughout in an effort to stave off the looming slip over the edge of the fiscal cliff (or curb or slope). If a deal is not struck by midnight tonight (New Year’s Eve), all of the Bush tax cuts will expire—not just for the top 2% of earners—and hundreds of billions in draconian budget cuts will be automatically enacted.

The current fiscal cliff deal is the result of negotiations a year ago between the White House and the Gang of 12 SuperCongress, a group made of six legislators from each party, and from both chambers of Congress. The sequestration deal (or fiscal cliff/curb/slope) was put into place as a sort of poison pill; an incentive for the SuperCongress to actually come to a deal.

Writers note: My apologies for the tardiness of today’s column. Computer problems delayed its completion.

It didn’t work. Republicans never had any intention of negotiating in good faith, and here we are today.

Another sticking point in the negotiations is what to do about the debt ceiling, which Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said the country will hit today. If the debt ceiling is not lifted—which is extremely unlikely at this point—Geithner has said that the Treasury Department will be forced to take extraordinary measures to keep the country paying its bills. Those extraordinary measures might be enough to find an additional $200 billion worth of room under the ceiling, enough for about two months worth of spending. If the debt ceiling is not raised it will mean that the U.S. will no longer be able to borrow money just to keep the lights on, running the risk of defaulting on its financial obligations.

This seems to be the actual goal of Congressional Republicans. They seem to actually want to see the country default on its obligations, regardless of the consequences. They are insisting that for every dollar the debt ceiling is raised, the president must cut one dollar in spending from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Let’s forget the fact that Obama already offered multiple adjustments to Social Security—including chained CPI which will effectively reduce Social Security benefit payouts—and the $1 trillion that Obamacare cuts from Medicare.

Republicans in the House rejected that deal out of hand last week, and Speaker John Boehner instead opted to offer his own “Plan B,” heavily tilted in the Republicans’ favor yet still rejected by his own caucus. Nothing short of complete victory is acceptable to the Tea Party dominated Congress, and no compromises will be accepted.

Debt-graph-CBPP“Why would I raise the debt ceiling again unless we address what put us in debt to begin with? I’m not going to raise the debt ceiling unless we get serious about keeping this country from becoming Greece, saving Social Security and Medicare,” Lindsay Graham (R-SC) told Fox News Sunday.

Someone should probably tell Senator Graham that it wasn’t Social Security and Medicare that are driving the debt and deficit, it was his beloved Bush tax cuts and two unfunded wars that did it. But let’s not let a little thing like the fact actually get in the way of good partisan rhetoric. Let’s not let actual math get in the way.


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