Obama resumes holiday after 'fiscal cliff' deal
As US president, Barack Obama, resumes his family vacation in Hawaii, American commuters and tourists criticise the lawmakers, who narrowly reached a 'fiscal cliff' deal.PT0M59S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2c64e 620 349 January 3, 2013
WASHINGTON: House and Senate Republicans are gearing up for even bigger economic showdowns after the messy compromise on the fiscal cliff crisis.
The deal, passed by the House of Representatives after days of disarray, raised taxes on the wealthiest but postponed for two months a decision about $US110 billion ($106 billion) in spending cuts to the federal budget.
The fudge is almost certain to put the White House and Congress at loggerheads again next month or in early March.
The two sides also face a stand-off over raising the federal debt ceiling.
The President, Barack Obama, who arrived back in Hawaii on Wednesday to resume his holiday, hailed the deal as the fulfilment of an election promise to raise taxes on the rich. But he devoted much of his statement on the congressional vote to the battles ahead.
He warned that failure to raise the debt ceiling would be dire. ''The consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic, far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff,'' he said.
The new 113th Congress was scheduled to begin work on Thursday but the November election left its make-up virtually unchanged.
The Republicans retain a majority in the House and the Democrats in the Senate.
The director of the University of Virginia's centre for politics, Larry Sabato, is pessimistic, seeing the fiscal cliff showdown as unnecessary and anticipating future collisions.
''This whole thing is trumped up,'' Professor Sabato said. ''We've known about the fiscal cliff for 17 months.
''There's no excuse for what's happened. It's pitiful, and it's going to happen again.''
He said the two sides remained polarised.
''The parties don't speak the same language,'' he said. ''It's very clear that the Republican caucus does not like President Obama personally.
''There's no deference to an election victory. We always used to have that,'' he said. ''You got a bit of a honeymoon and a bit of a mandate when you won an election. And now there's nothing.''
Tuesday was an especially bad day for the Republicans as the vote in the House exposed the depth of divisions within the party. In the House, the bill was passed by 257 to 167, with 151 Republicans voting against and only 85 in favour.
The divide cut through even the party leadership, with the Speaker, John Boehner, voting for it, and the majority leader, Eric Cantor, and the whip, Kevin McCarthy, both more conservative figures than Mr Boehner, against.
Republicans expressed anger with Mr Cantor and Mr McCarthy for calling on colleagues to rally behind Mr Boehner in voting for the bill and then doing the opposite.
Many Republicans, especially those backed by the Tea Party, want to remain ideologically pure, able to go back to their districts saying they had not voted for tax increases.
Mr Boehner's inability to control his own caucus is one reason politics in Washington has become so divisive.
Illustrating the extent to which personal relations have broken down, the Politico website reported a confrontation in the midst of the negotiations last Friday in which Mr Boehner told the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid: ''Go f--- yourself.''
Mr Boehner is reported to have made the comment in the lobby after Senator Reid had publicly said Mr Boehner was more interested in securing re-election as speaker than reaching a deal.
Mr Obama recalled that in the last showdown over the debt ceiling in 2011, the government almost shut down.
He did not want to repeat that situation and would leave the latest debt ceiling debate to Congress rather than becoming involved. But it is hard to see how the White House can remain aloof, given the consequences of the US being unable to meet its debt obligations.
Guardian News & Media