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 over three weeks, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner looked each other in the eye and actually had a conversation! This meeting comes at a very important time because in just 22 days Americans face severe tax hikes and spending cuts unless these two leaders can find a way to compromise. Neither side would discuss specifics but after yesterday's white house meeting a spokesman for the president said – quote – "the lines of communication remain open." This morning, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) joins “Starting Point” to weigh in on the fiscal cliff and the recent meeting between the president and Speaker Boehner.
Chu says she, “was encouraged to see the meeting between Speaker Boehner and President Obama” and she “really feels a deal has to be made.” She adds “a deal is to be made that would benefit the people if it were done earlier.”
Chu says, “we need discussion right now…and we need to have a discussion where we could have sensible solutions with regard to the safety net programs as well as the tax cuts.”
On the topic of what democrats will bring to the table Chu says, “Something that should have been done a while ago” is a “ change to Medicare in which we can actually negotiate for drug prices. After all we do it for Medicaid. Why can’t we do it for Medicare? That would be a big savings to the Medicare program.”
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."
This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Soledad & Romney Advisor John Sununu sparred on topics ranging from the U.S. Consulate attacks in Libya to Mitt Romney's claims on coal, taxes and guns. And in the end, despite the fiery conversation, the discussion was ended amicably. Check out the video links below for more.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on bills addressing the Bush-era tax cuts this week, before congress goes on a on a five-week recess.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking Democrat on The House Budget Committee, talks with Soledad O’Brien on "Starting Point" this morning about the reasons House Republicans should take up President Obama’s plan on tax cuts.
Van Hollen says, the president’s plan which passed senate last week “would provide tax relief for 100% of the American people compared to what the current law provides.” The Maryland congressman went on to say Obama’s plan would “provide total relief to 98% of the American people,” however the top 2% would not benefit “quite as much.”
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned in a Congressional testimony Tuesday about the dangers of dropping off the fiscal cliff at the end of 2012. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats say they will let the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of the year if Republicans do not compromise on spending cuts before the deadline.
"Fiscal decisions should take into account the fragility of the recovery," Bernanke says. "That recovery could be endangered by the confluence of tax increases and spending reductions that will take effect early next year if no legislative action is taken."
Soledad O'Brien speaks with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on CNN's "Starting Point" about the approaching fiscal cliff. Sen. Blumenthal says Congress should be passing an extention of the tax cuts for households earning less than $250 thousand per year in order to provide the economy with some stability.
Sen. Blumenthal also says that if given the choice of either extending tax cuts for all Americans or ending the tax cuts for all Americans he would vote to extend them, "I think that fiscal cliff is so ominous and so potentially destructive that we need to avoid it." Sen. Blumenthal adds, "We also need to address the need for cuts in spending. I think a balanced approach is the optimal way to go."
Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) on who should get credit for improved state economies and unemployment rates.