President Obama and the Senate are returning to Washington today after taking a Christmas Break. They now have only five days to act to avoid the fiscal cliff as they wait to see if the House will come into session. The GOP is meanwhile putting pressure on Senate Democrats to make the next move in the fiscal cliff standoff. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is a Democrat from Connecticut. He joins “Starting Point” live from D.C.
"I'm really hopeful," Sen. Blumenthal says. "I think there is still sufficient time to reach a deal if we use the common ground that we have. And that common ground is that nobody wants to go over the fiscal cliff."
Only twenty days remain until the U.S. falls over the fiscal cliff, but new reports this morning from the White House are signaling potential progress toward averting the crisis. The White House released a statement confirming that House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama met in person at the White House yesterday. Both Boehner and Obama also released statements saying they would not comment specifically on what was discussed, but both agree "the lines of communication remain open." Whether this means a deal is on the horizon is still in question.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D-NJ) thinks that failing to renew the tax cuts for the middle class would create significant economic challenges to those who are already struggling, such as residents across his state. "This is a time in our fragile economy that we cannot have a goverment that is – especially Republicans – holding hostage all of this country," he says. "It's going to really hurt people."
"We saw what happened the last time we had a conflict like this around the debt ceiling debate. This debate ground on, and unfortunately, consumer confidence dipped, the economy hurt, credit was downgraded...I'm really hoping we learned a lesson from this," he says.
For the first time in a week, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner spoke about the fiscal cliff over the phone, but there’s no word of progress made or future talks planned with only twenty-six days to go before the fiscal cliff.
Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), who is a member of the Appropriations Committee, believes that there’s a growing sense in the Republican party that “the President has won this round relative to the rates” but they still need to sit down and work out the spending part of the deal, which he feels can be reached if the President moves forward with entitlement reform.
LaTourette comments that the Republicans’ walk out yesterday, heading home because there are no votes between now and the weekend, is not as significant as it appears. “We’re not doing anything to get this done because there’s nothing we can do,” he says. “This is going to be a negotiation between the President of the United States and House Speaker John Boehner.”
House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama finally breaking silence by speaking on the phone yesterday, but with twenty-six days left before we tumble over the fiscal cliff, there’s still no sign of progress, and we could be facing massive tax hikes and spending cuts at the start of the new year.
This morning on “Starting Point”, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), member of the Budget Committee, supports the president’s plan, saying that it is consistent with his campaign promises to extend tax cuts for the middle class, but not for the wealthiest Americans. He adds that the Republicans’ “unspecified proposal” is an “unacceptable” response to the president’s plan.
Merkley believes Republicans are playing a “game of chicken” with the fiscal cliff: “It’s not acceptable that this game of chicken continue… There need to be very specific negotiations. If they need to keep them private and contained for awhile to get into the details, so be it, but action is required.”
The U.S. is just 27 days away from falling over the fiscal cliff, but there is still no deal in sight. Texas Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling offers his take on the stalemate this morning on “Starting Point”. Hensarling is the newly-named Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and he Co-Chaired the Super Committee on Deficit Reduction.
Hensarling refuses to budge on raising revenue, though he thinks the president will achieve it regardless. “There’s nothing we can do to stop that,” he says, “but the bottom line is you can’t solve this problem through revenue.”
Hensarling refuses to raise tax rates because he says “the fiscal cliff, relative to our nation’s spending driven debt crisis, is a pothole...What’s changed is on the spending side, and yet all this discussion is on the tax revenues.”
With 27 days left before the fiscal cliff, talks of a deal in Washington are still at an impasse. President Obama told Republicans that he will not accept a proposal on the fiscal cliff if it does not include raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, rejecting House Speaker Boehner's deficit reduction plan on that basis.
This morning on "Starting Point", Stephanie Cutter, former Deputy Campaign Manager for the Obama 2012 campaign, stresses it is clear that compromise is possible, but Republicans need to come together. Cutter says, "We still have time to put a deal together. The President has a detailed proposal on the table. Republicans need to decide where they want to move. John Boehner needs to decide how he's going to get his own caucus together. They're becoming increasing isolated in their position."
Cutter adds that "there's...plenty of time for compromise. The President's position is clear. We're not going to do anything that hurts the middle class."
Voters reelected President Obama as president of the United States today. DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) shares her take on the win live from Chicago, where the Obama campaign celebrated its victory, and what’s going on in her state of Florida. It’s the lone yellow state on our CNN map where the votes haven’t been completely counted yet.
Wasserman Schultz says that CNN may soon “change that from yellow to blue” because the president was ahead by about 60,0000 votes when counting shut down last night in order to resume this morning. “So, I think Florida is ultimately gonna be called for President Obama,” she says.
CNN Contributor John Avlon asks if the president’s successful turnout in previously “too-close-to-call” Florida was due to a grassroots strategy or to Latino voters.
“Both,” she answers. “We actually increased the turnout in Florida, and across the country, from 2008 with Latino voters, with African American voters, with younger voters. And so because of the ground game, because we emphasized door knocking, and phone calls, and just tremendous outreach.”
Wasserman Schultz explains the Obama Campaign’s defeat of the Romney Campaign with a biblical metaphor. “David slew Goliath, when it comes to money,” she says. “The door to door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor campaign beats billionaires trying to buy the White House.”
Another victory last night was democrats retaining control of the Senate, but the House still remains in control of the House. CNN Political Contributor Hilary Rosen asks if democrats and republicans can actually get to working together again. “Yes,” Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz says. “That’s absolutely critical if we’re gonna continue to move our economy and country forward.”
Despite polls showing a close race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell says he believes the president will be much stronger in the second presidential debate whereas it remains unclear "which Romney will show up." He also argues on “Starting Point” that enthusiasm for Obama’s campaign remains strong.
On “Starting Point,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani argues that Mitt Romney will be “very, very good” on Tuesday night in the second presidential debate. Looking ahead to debate night, the former mayor says President Barack Obama’s performance is “more of a question,” considering Obama's "troubling" first debate.
Mark McKinnon, former McCain presidential campaign adviser and contributor to the Daily Beast, offers the candidates advice on “Starting Point” for the upcoming second presidential debate.
“The bar is really low for the president now, given the first performance,” McKinnon says. “I think all he has to do is have a couple cups of coffee and show up with a smile and look like he wants to be there and that will be a win… You remember in the Gore/Bush debates, he had the one that was really too hot and then to cold. So, the caution that I would recommend for the president [is] that he not be too overheated.”