TPM Fiscal Cliff

Paul Ryan's Fiscal Cliff Predicament

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has tapped Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to help reach a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a senior GOP aide confirms to TPM. The elevated role puts the staunch conservative and recent vice presidential nominee in a tough predicament that carries important implications, both for his personal political future and, potentially, for relations between the White House and Congressional Republicans.

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Democrats' Big Budget Ask

Democratic leaders, frustrated by the GOP's unwillingness to reckon with the need to raise taxes, are publicly airing the hard-bargaining demands they're bringing to budget negotiations with Republicans.

The Senate's top two Democrats, in separate remarks Tuesday, each said that Congress could avoid looming across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts if House Republicans agree to freeze all the Bush tax rates except those benefitting top earners. If that were accompanied by an increase in the debt limit, and the creation of a separate track for reforming the tax code and social safety net programs in 2013, the near-term austerity problem will be solved, and lawmakers can call it a day.

In other words, Senate Democrats are staking out the position that entitlement reform should not be on the table in fiscal cliff negotiations.

"If we fail to reach an agreement, the average middle-class family will see their taxes go up by $2,200 a year," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters at his weekly press availability. "As I've indicated, the Senate has already reacted to stop that and the House is one vote away from making that a reality for many millions of Americans who are middle class."

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Anchor Accuses Top House Progressive Of Tanking Markets By Appearing On CNBC

At around 3:30 PM Eastern Tuesday, CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera noted a sell-off in the stock market, an entirely unremarkable occurrence in the course of the financial network's daily coverage. But what separated this particular sell-off from others, according to Caruso-Cabrera, was that it could be traced directly to the appearance of one of the House's top progressives on her show.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) tanked the market, she said, by refusing to budge on his contention that Medicare cuts should be off the table in negotiations surrounding the so-called fiscal cliff. Democrats accused the anchor of trying to "shame" them into cutting entitlement cuts by directly blaming Grijalva's words for the market's decline.

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Liberal Economists: Let Middle-Income Bush Tax Cuts Expire

Reporters and policy makers have for months used the term "fiscal cliff" as shorthand for the myriad expiring tax provisions and automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect early next year.

The implication is that either the budget will consolidate -- in some cases messily -- and the economy will contract, or Congress will reach an agreement to push back the deadlines for action.

But economists at the liberal Economic Policy Institute see things a bit differently. They've broken the expiring and automatic provisions up into their constituent parts, creating what they call a "fiscal obstacle course." And they've concluded that some of those obstacles, including the middle-income tax cuts, are worth tripping over.

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Colbert Cowers Before 'Tax Master' Grover Norquist's Powers

The fiscal cliff is coming! If Republicans and Democrats don't strike a deal by January 1, massive automatic spending cuts are triggered and the Bush-era tax cuts expire.

"In other words, we're all going to die," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday. Many Republicans signed a pledge with Grover Norquist not to increase taxes. But Democrats think they might have a workaround: allow all the Bush tax cuts to expire at the new year, then vote for a middle-class tax cut.

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Top Dem: No Chance We'll Extend Tax Cuts For The Rich

There is absolutely no way President Obama or Democrats will permit the Bush-era tax cuts on high incomes to be extended, a party leader declared in a speech Monday.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the No. 4 Democrat and senior budget member, unequivocally promised her party will shoot down GOP efforts to prevent tax rates on incomes above $250,000 to rise by 3.6 percent to Clinton-era levels, even if it means letting rates go up on middle incomes.

"If Republicans won't work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal," Murray said in Washington, D.C. at the Brookings Institution. "Because I feel very strongly that we simply cannot allow middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans to bear this burden alone."

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Why Obama's Tax Plan Is About More Than Ending Tax Cuts For The Wealthy

President Obama's renewed push to end Bush-era tax cuts for income over $250,000 a year has clarified the stakes of this November's election. But if he gets his way, Obama's plan could simultaneously allow the country to at least temporarily avoid the massive budget tightening set to occur automatically at the beginning of next year, which economists fear could lurch the country back into recession.

In January, across the board cuts to defense and domestic programs, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years, are set to kick in automatically. At about the same time, all of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire, along with the payroll tax holiday and other temporary measures.

The parties have been battling for months over how to avoid this so-called "fiscal cliff." Republicans propose to extend all of the Bush tax cuts and replace the first year of meat-axe spending cuts -- known technically as the "sequester" -- with cuts to food stamps and other domestic programs. Democrats find this alternative unacceptable, but have used the threat of the fiscal cliff -- and particularly the defense cuts -- to push Republicans to abandon their anti-tax absolutism, and replace the fiscal cliff with a balanced deficit reduction plan.

So far, nobody's budging. But if Democrats win the election, and the top bracket tax cuts expire, they can use the fresh revenue to pay for wiping the sequester off the books.

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GOP Refusing To Compromise To Avoid Economic Plunge, Top House Liberal Says

As job growth slows and the nation lurches closer to a major economic contraction, a top House progressive says he sees no evidence that Republicans are open to a fiscal compromise to avoid that outcome.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told TPM at the Netroots Nation conference that the alarming economic news of late isn't waking House Republicans up to the fact that a compromise on taxes and spending will be necessary to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

"No, I'm not seeing any relent from them," Ellison said Saturday afternoon. "I see them demanding that their agenda be adopted and not much movement in terms of compromise. I don't see them compromising."

Publicly, House Republicans aren't ceding an inch on taxes.

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