WBEZ | fiscal cliff http://www.wbez.org/tags/fiscal-cliff Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Sequester would cut funding for environment and energy http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/sequester-would-cut-funding-environment-and-energy-105774 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mick_chgo/7175912324/in/photostream/" target="_blank"><img alt="" as="" class="image-original_image" in="" kosanovich="" milosh="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cut-(as-in-budget)-flowers-by-Milosh-Kosanovich-via-Flickr.jpg" title="Flickr/Milosh Kosanovich" via="" /></a></p><p><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/127155936/Illinois-Impact">A White House report</a> detailing <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/infographic-how-illinois-would-be-affected-sequester-105749">the impacts of cuts scheduled to take effect March 1</a> if Congress does not avert <a href="http://www.wbez.org/results?s=fiscal%20cliff">the sequester (part of the &quot;fiscal cliff&quot;)</a> named environmental funding among the hardest hit in Illinois:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Illinois would lose about $6.4 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Illinois could lose another $974,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Illinois EPA declined to comment on the looming budget reductions.</p><p>Congress appears <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/economy/6-degrees-sequestration/sequester-fiscal-cliff-we-will-go-over">unlikely to strike deal that would avoid</a> the mandatory spending cuts totaling $85 billion, to say nothing of the second, albeit much smaller, cuts scheduled for March 27. The cuts are meant to help close a $4 trillion budget deficit.</p><p>While the belt-tightening measures on track to begin Friday amount in aggregate to roughly 2.5 percent of all federal spending, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/files/2-26-13bud.pdf">a report released Tuesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a> points out that the sequester will slash more than twice that proportion (5.1 percent) from discretionary non-military programs. (Defense programs actually have it worse, looking at about 7.7 percent cutbacks.)</p><p>Nationwide environmental programs <a href="http://ens-newswire.com/2013/02/24/sequester-spending-cuts-will-hurt-the-environment/">will take a big hit</a>. The National Science Foundation will issue almost 1,000 fewer research grants, and several thousand research personnel could lose their jobs as a result of cuts to The National Institutes of Health. Many national parks will face partial or full closures.</p><p>The sequester would slow down oil and gas permitting, due to cutbacks at the Department of the Interior and other agencies with a hand in that process. Permitting for solar and wind power plants on federal lands could also slow down.</p><p>The cuts would affect energy efficiency, too, <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2013/0226/Federal-spending-cuts-How-will-the-sequester-affect-energy">perhaps counting 1,200 home weatherization professionals</a> among those laid off as a result of the sequester.</p></p> Wed, 27 Feb 2013 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/sequester-would-cut-funding-environment-and-energy-105774 Deal will prevent spike in milk prices http://www.wbez.org/news/deal-will-prevent-spike-milk-prices-104656 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/milk_bluewaikiki.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Portions of the federal farm bill were extended through September as part of the fiscal cliff deal Congress and the President just reached.</p><p>That means consumers can breathe a sigh of relief because milk prices won&rsquo;t double this year after all: The extension includes language to keep milk prices from rising.</p><p>But some Illinois farmers are not so happy. The deal excludes other provisions like energy and disaster aid for farmers.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s lost is an opportunity to fine-tune farm programs so they work well for both farmers and taxpayers,&rdquo; said Adam Nielsen, who&rsquo;s Director of National Legislation and Policy Development at the Illinois Farm Bureau.</p><p>Nielsen said a different proposal that was in the U.S. House would have saved the country $35 billion over the next 10 years, while also helping Illinois farmers. That proposed bill would have curtailed farm subsidies, but improved crop insurance. Some Illinois farmers say that&rsquo;s more important, especially in light of Illinois&rsquo; recent drought.</p><p>Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she considers the slimmed-down extension of the expired farm bill to be &quot;Mitch McConnell&#39;s version of a farm bill.&quot; She said the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky forced bargainers to accept the version of the farm bill that appeared in the deal.</p><p>McConnell spokesman Michael Brumas responded: &quot;Sen. McConnell put forward a bipartisan, responsible solution that averted the dairy cliff and provided certainty to farmers for the next year without costing taxpayers a dime.&quot;</p><p>Just a day earlier, Stabenow said leaders from both parties on the House and Senate agriculture committees had agreed to extend the entire farm bill. Stabenow and House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced they had agreed on a last-minute move that would extend the whole bill and replace dairy programs that expired at midnight Tuesday. Expiration of those dairy programs would likely mean higher milk prices at the grocery store within just a few weeks.</p><p>But the House GOP had not endorsed that extension agreement. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Sunday that extending the entire bill through September, including disaster assistance for farmers affected by drought, could cost more than $1 billion this budget year.</p><p>House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has pushed back on passage of a new five-year farm bill for months, saying there were not enough votes to bring it to the House floor after the House Agriculture Committee approved it in July. The Senate passed its version in June. The bill, generally passed every five years, includes food stamps, farm subsidies and other help for rural areas.</p><p>But the prospect of higher milk prices prompted some action. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said Americans faced the prospect of paying $7 for a gallon of milk if the current dairy program lapsed and the government returned to a 1948 formula for calculating milk price supports.</p><p>Extending the entire agriculture bill would include an overhaul of dairy programs, which was in both the Senate and House committee bills. Those programs included a voluntary insurance program for dairy producers, and those who chose that program also would have to participate in a market stabilization program that could dictate production cuts when oversupply drives down prices &mdash; which hasn&#39;t gone over well with Boehner.</p><p>In July, he called the existing dairy program &quot;Soviet-style&quot; and said the new program would make it even worse. Large food companies that process and use dairy products have backed Boehner, saying the program could limit milk supplies and increase their costs.</p><p>One of the reasons Boehner has balked at bringing up a farm bill is disagreement among House Republicans over how much money should be cut from food stamps, which make up roughly 80 percent of the half-trillion-dollar bill&#39;s cost over five years. Ag Chairman&nbsp; Lucas has unsuccessfully pushed his leadership for months to move on the legislation despite the disagreement over food aid.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Wed, 02 Jan 2013 14:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/deal-will-prevent-spike-milk-prices-104656 Fiscal Cliff Winners and Losers http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-01/fiscal-cliff-winners-and-losers-104649 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS92_AP080801035595-veepstakes-biden-scr.jpg" style="float: right; height: 374px; width: 300px;" title="Joe Biden is a big winner in the fiscal cliff fight. (AP/File)" /><strong><em>Winners</em></strong></div><p><br /><strong>Joe Biden</strong><br /><br />He&rsquo;s so damn easy to make fun of, with his sparkly smile and foot-in-mouth-disease. But he rolled up his sleeves and hammered the deal &mdash; not a great deal by any means, but by the time Biden strolled in, there were no great deals to be had and barely any doable deals at all. Remember that Biden entered the picture after President Barack Obama pissed everybody off by lecturing Republicans and crowing about the deal at a press conference with &ldquo;midde classers&rdquo; before the deal was even done. So here are the optics: Having screwed up so that absolutely no one will so much as talk to him, Obama is forced to let Biden lead. And the Affable One does.<br /><br /><strong>Mitch McConnell</strong><br /><br />He stayed out of it pretty much to the end, kept as low a profile as a Senate Minority leader who&rsquo;s worried about an out-of-state Hollywood star challenging him can, then reached <em>across the aisle</em> to Joe Biden. Sure, you and I know it was more a desperate move than any true bipartisan impulse, but McConnell can now say he goes both ways. And he&rsquo;s the clear co-author of the &ldquo;deal&rdquo; &mdash; if not the bill itself &mdash; to keep us from going over. All this will look great in a Mitch-to-the-rescue narrative for his re-election bid, coming up in less than a year.<br /><br /><strong>Eric Cantor</strong><br /><br />I know, it looks like Speaker of the House John Boehner was yo-yo-ing him throughout the process: Yeah, we have the votes for Plan B &mdash; oops, we don&rsquo;t; yeah, we&rsquo;ve got a deal &mdash; oh, it sucks; of course we&rsquo;re gonna vote on Sandy aid &mdash; oh, guess we&rsquo;re on vacay. But Cantor &mdash; Boehner&rsquo;s only real long-term competition for Speaker (though not this time) &mdash; needed to undo the personal damage he incurred from last year&#39;s debt ceiling crisis, when he seemed to be having a potentially destabilizing tantrum every two minutes. In other words, he needed to be a mensch this time. And though some might argue with my use of the term, he came as close as he possibly could given the circumstances: He did a totally loyal stand-by-your-man with Boehner. No matter what disaster was at hand, he only said nice things about him to the press, did not roll his eyes or sneer but looked as sincere as Cantor can (sometimes he even looked concerned). And he pretty much washed his hands of the whole mess in the end, when he voted against the deal. If it works, great &mdash; Cantor will argue his was a vote of conscience. If it doesn&rsquo;t &mdash; the more likely outcome &mdash; he&rsquo;s on record.<br /><br /><strong>John Boehner</strong><br /><br />You&rsquo;re thinking, <em>what</em>? John Boehner, a <em>winner</em>? Listen to me: His power is unquestionably diminished because the crazies in his conference have been exposed and now even the Democrats understand the limits of what Boehner &mdash; or <em>any</em> GOP Speaker &mdash; can deliver. But Boehner, who is personally well-liked, may have gained some inside points by making several moves. One, he pulled his Plan B, at great personal cost, to avoid the much worse embarrassment of an actual vote. And when the McConnell-Biden bill landed in the House, he let the crazies vent, let them try to vote to kill it, even helped take the count, so that they could see it wouldn&rsquo;t work. In other words, he didn&rsquo;t cram anything down anybody&rsquo;s throats. He had the patience to let it all work itself out. And by showing just what an animal house the GOP has, just how wildly undisciplined his members are and how disciplined he can be, Boehner will come back to lead for another year. Even Cantor will vote for him, probably taking notes as he does so.<br /><br /><em><strong>Losers</strong></em><br /><br /><strong>Obama</strong><br /><br />God knows, the man&rsquo;s spine is made of uncooked pizza dough. You know how he campaigned on taxing everybody with incomes beyond $250,000 with broad public support? Well, that&rsquo;s at $400,000 now. He didn&rsquo;t even bother to negotiate the payroll tax, giving that away as a door prize at the meet and greet for the negotiations.<br /><br />Sure, he held the line on Social Security -- but not because he <em>wanted</em>. We can thank Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi for making him stick to his vow not to include Social Security in the deal.<br /><br />The White House will spend a lot of time and money trying to convince us that this deal -- which was apparently put together by Biden and McConnell, not Obama and Boehner -- is a major moral victory because Republicans are now on record raising taxes.<br /><br />Don&rsquo;t believe this. The GOP managed to wait out the stroke of midnight to the New Year and even got Grover Norquist to say the timing magically transformed their vote into a tax <em>cut</em> instead. And in the Republican districts where this matters, Norquist&rsquo;s take on this will weigh way more than Obama&rsquo;s.<br /><br />Moreover, Obama has now set himself for a titanic debt ceiling fight in all of two months. Not only have the Republicans preferred that as a battleground all along, but now they can say they gave in &mdash; yes, they will have it <em>both</em> ways &mdash; and that it&rsquo;s the Democrats&rsquo; turn to give. Obama has basically turned a colossal bargaining leverage into a defensive position for his party. <em>Repeat and rewind!</em><br /><br />All of which means that actual policy &mdash; like the oft-promised immigration overall, and gun control &mdash; will continue to be marginalized. The bad blood from these fights will also spill over to those efforts, making it harder and harder to get a deal, while Obama&rsquo;s lame-duckness diminishes his influence by the day.<br /><br /><em><strong>MIA</strong></em><br /><br /><strong>Paul Ryan</strong></p><p>The GOP&rsquo;s VP standard bearer in 2012 has been missing in action during these talks. Oh, he voted for the deal, but he must have telegrammed it. Not only has he not been at these crucial meetings and press conferences, but he&rsquo;s had virtually nothing to say about it. Perhaps this is a brilliant strategy to not get burned, but these cowardly moves are nothing more than a lack of leadership. It&rsquo;s almost like he and Obama are wrestling to see who&rsquo;s the got the bigger noodle up their butts. And because at least Obama has to show up, Ryan may have won that contest.</p></p> Wed, 02 Jan 2013 10:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-01/fiscal-cliff-winners-and-losers-104649 Congress OKs cliff deal, signaling future fights http://www.wbez.org/news/congress-oks-cliff-deal-signaling-future-fights-104648 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP197551220602.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; Congress&#39; excruciating, extraordinary New Year&#39;s Day approval of a compromise averting a prolonged tumble off the fiscal cliff hands President Barack Obama most of the tax boosts on the rich that he campaigned on. It also prevents House Republicans from facing blame for blocking tax cuts for most American households, though most GOP lawmakers parted ways with Speaker John Boehner and opposed the measure.</p><p>Passage also lays the groundwork for future battles between the two sides over federal spending and debt.</p><p>Capping a holiday season political spectacle that featured enough high and low notes for a Broadway musical, the GOP-run House voted final approval for the measure by 257-167 late Tuesday. That came after the Democratic-led Senate used a wee-hours 89-8 roll call to assent to the bill, belying the partisan brinkmanship that colored much of the path to the final deal.</p><p>&quot;A central promise of my campaign for president was to change the tax code that was too skewed towards the wealthy at the expense of working middle-class Americans,&quot; Obama said at the White House before flying to Hawaii to resume his holiday break. &quot;Tonight we&#39;ve done that.&quot;</p><p>The bill would boost the top 35 percent income tax rate to 39.6 percent for incomes exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, while continuing decade-old income tax cuts for everyone else. In his re-election campaign last year Obama had vowed to boost rates on earnings at somewhat lower levels &mdash; $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families.</p><p>Scores of GOP lawmakers voted for the measure, reversing a quarter-century of solid Republican opposition to boosting any tax rates at all.</p><p>The bill would also raise taxes top earners pay on dividends, capital gains and inherited estates; permanently stop the alternative minimum tax from raising levies on millions of middle-income families; extend expiring jobless benefits; prevent cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors; and delay for two months billions in budget-wide cuts in defense and domestic programs slated for this year.</p><p>Both sides lamented their failure to reach a significant deficit-cutting agreement. But neither much mentioned another omission: The immediate expiration of a two-year, 2-percentage-point cut in the Social Security payroll tax.</p><p>That break, which put an extra $1,000 in the wallets of typical families earning $50,000 a year, was an Obama priority two years ago as a way to boost consumer spending and spark the flagging economy, but it fell victim this time to other priorities.</p><p>House Democrats voted by an overwhelming 172-16 for the agreement, which was crafted over the weekend by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Vice President Joe Biden.</p><p>But Republicans tilted against it 151-85. It is rare for leaders to bring a bill to the House floor that will be opposed by most lawmakers from their own party, and the decision underscored the pressure GOP leaders felt to approve the legislation.</p><p>Boehner, R-Ohio, took no public stance on the measure before the vote. But he guided the compromise to the House floor after an unsuccessful attempt by many conservatives to persuade leaders to add spending cuts to the bill.</p><p>Had the House inserted those budget cuts and the Senate refused to consider them, the legislation could have died. That left House Republicans worried that voters might blame them for a huge, sweeping tax increase and for any swoon the nation&#39;s financial markets might take when they reopened Wednesday.</p><p>&quot;You can be right and you can be dead right. Which is it?&quot; said Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Fla., of the quandary Republicans faced. &quot;Right now you need to take the tax issue off the table&quot; and move on to a focus on curbing spending, he said.</p><p>Boehner voted for the bill, an unusual step because speakers seldom vote, and he was joined by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP&#39;s vice presidential candidate last fall. Voting &quot;no&quot; were the other two top GOP leaders, Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Kevin McCarthy of California.</p><p>Passage came nearly 24 hours after a decade&#39;s worth of tax cuts enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans expired with the stroke of the new year, technically raising taxes by more than $500 billion in 2013 alone.</p><p>Those tax increases &mdash; plus $109 billion in defense and domestic spending cuts that were to be automatically triggered Wednesday &mdash; became known as the fiscal cliff. Economists warned that their combined impact would hurl the economy back into recession, but Obama&#39;s signature on the bill would prevent the &quot;cliff&quot; from taking hold.</p><p>Obama can sign the bill remotely using a machine called an &quot;autopen,&quot; or the bill can be flown to Hawaii for his signature.</p><p>Overall, the legislation would add nearly $4 trillion to federal deficits over the next decade compared with what would have happened had all the tax cuts expired, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m embarrassed for this generation. Future generations deserve better,&quot; complained one foe, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.</p><p>The agreement&#39;s journey to passage was a tortured one. It included negotiations between Obama and Boehner on a larger, deficit-cutting deal that collapsed, and a failed effort by the speaker to drum up enough GOP votes to pass a &quot;Plan B&quot; that would have limited tax boosts to incomes exceeding $1 million.</p><p>It took weekend talks between McConnell and Biden, former Senate colleagues, to craft the more modest package that focused on averting the worst impacts of the fiscal cliff while postponing any deficit reduction efforts to coming months.</p><p>Those first showdowns will come over the next three months, when the government&#39;s legal ability to borrow money will expire and temporary financing for federal agency budgets will expire. Republicans have already said that, as they did in 2011, they will demand spending cuts as a condition for extending the debt ceiling.</p><p>&quot;Now the focus turns to spending&quot; and overhauling the tax code, Boehner said in a written statement after the vote. He said the GOP will fight for &quot;significant spending cuts and reforms to the entitlement programs that are driving our country deeper and deeper into debt,&quot; a reference to costly benefit programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.</p><p>Spending cuts are &quot;going to be a component of every single battle we have&quot; in the new Congress, conservative GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee told CNN on Wednesday.</p><p>Obama, in his White House remarks, said that while he was open to compromise, he would demand deficit-cutting savings from added revenue on the well-off, not just spending cuts.</p><p>He also pointedly said he would &quot;not have another debate with this Congress&quot; over extending the federal borrowing limit.</p><p>&quot;If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic &mdash; far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff,&quot; he said.</p><p>Though its focus was on taxes, the measure approved Tuesday would prevent a potential doubling of milk prices and prevent a $900 salary increase for members of Congress in March. Its extension of jobless benefits would help 2 million people out of work at least six months, and it would prevent a 27 percent cut in reimbursements doctors get for treating Medicare patients.</p><p>Weighing in with criticism of the compromise were the chief authors of an influential bipartisan deficit-cutting proposal, former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton. They called the measure &quot;truly a missed opportunity to do something big to reduce our long term fiscal problems.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 02 Jan 2013 10:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/congress-oks-cliff-deal-signaling-future-fights-104648 Cliff avoided: Congress staves off tax hikes http://www.wbez.org/news/cliff-avoided-congress-staves-tax-hikes-104629 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/RS3415_capitol debt(AP PhotoCarolyn Kaster)-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>UPDATED 10:51 P.M. 1/1/2013</em></p><p>Past its own New Year&#39;s deadline, a weary Congress sent President Barack Obama legislation to avoid a national &quot;fiscal&nbsp;cliff&quot; of middle class tax increases and spending cuts late Tuesday night in the culmination of a struggle that strained America&#39;s divided government to the limit.</p><p>The bill&#39;s passage on a bipartisan 257-167 vote in the House sealed a hard-won political triumph for the president less than two months after he secured re-election while calling for higher taxes on the wealthy.</p><p>Moments later, Obama strode into the White House briefing room and declared, &quot;Thanks to the votes of Republicans and Democrats in Congress I will sign a law that raises taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans while preventing tax hikes that could have sent the economy back into recession.&quot;</p><p>He spoke with Vice President Joe Biden at his side, a recognition of the former senator&#39;s role as the lead Democratic negotiator in final compromise talks with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.</p><p>In addition to neutralizing middle class tax increases and spending cuts taking effect with the new year, the legislation will raise tax rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. That was higher than the thresholds of $200,000 and $250,000 that Obama campaigned for. But remarkably, in a party that swore off tax increases two decades ago, dozens of Republicans supported the bill at both ends of the Capitol.</p><p>The Senate approved the measure on a vote of 89-8 less than 24 hours earlier, and in the interim, rebellious House conservatives demanded a vote to add significant spending cuts to the measure. But in the end they retreated.</p><p>The measure split the upper ranks of the Republican leadership in the House.</p><p>Speaker John Boehner of Ohio voted in favor, while Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the party&#39;s whip, opposed the bill.</p><p>Supporters of the bill in both parties expressed regret that it was narrowly drawn, and fell far short of a sweeping plan that combined tax changes and spending cuts to reduce federal deficits. That proved to be a step too far in the two months since Obama called congressional leaders to the White House for a postelection stab at compromise.</p><p>Majority Republicans did their best to minimize the bill&#39;s tax increases, just as they abandoned their demand from earlier in the day to add spending cuts to the package.</p><p>&quot;By making Republican tax cuts permanent, we are one step closer to comprehensive tax reform that will help strengthen our economy and create more and higher paychecks for American workers,&quot; said Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.</p><p>He urged a vote for passage to &quot;get us one step closer to tax reform in 2013&quot; as well as attempts to control spending.</p><p>House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also said the legislation included &quot;permanent tax relief for the middle class,&quot; and she summoned lawmakers to provide bipartisan support as the Senate did.</p><p>The bill would also prevent an expiration of extended unemployment benefits for an estimated two million jobless, block a 27 percent cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients, stop a $900 pay increase for lawmakers from taking effect in March and head off a threatened spike in milk prices.</p><p>It would stop $24 billion in across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect over the next two months, although only about half of that total would be offset with savings elsewhere in the budget.</p><p>The economic as well as political stakes were considerable.</p><p>Economists have warned that without action by Congress, the tax increases and spending cuts that technically took effect with the turn of the new year at midnight could send the economy into recession.</p><p>Even with enactment of the legislation, taxes are on the rise for millions.</p><p>A 2 percentage point temporary cut in the Social Security payroll tax, originally enacted two years ago to stimulate the economy, expired with the end of 2012. Neither Obama nor Republicans made a significant effort to extend it.</p><p>House Republicans spent much of the day struggling to escape a political corner they found themselves in.</p><p>&quot;I personally hate it,&quot; Rep. John Campbell of California, said of the measure, giving voice to the concern of many Republicans that it did little or nothing to cut spending.</p><p>&quot;The speaker the day after the election said we would give on taxes and we have. But we wanted spending cuts. This bill has spending increases. Are you kidding me? So we get tax increases and spending increases? Come on.&quot;</p><p>Cantor told reporters at one point, &quot;I do not support the bill. We are looking, though, for the best path forward.&quot;</p><p>Within hours, Republicans abandoned demands for changes and agreed to a simple yes-or-no vote on the Senate-passed bill.</p><p>They feared that otherwise the Senate would refuse to consider any alterations, sending the bill into limbo and saddling Republicans with the blame for a whopping middle class tax increase. One Senate Democratic leadership aide said Majority Leader Harry Reid would &quot;absolutely not take up the bill&quot; if the House changed it. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a requirement to keep internal deliberations private.</p><p>Despite Cantor&#39;s remarks, Boehner took no public position in advance of voting the bill as he sought to negotiate a conclusion to the final crisis of a two-year term full of them.</p><p>The brief insurrection wasn&#39;t the first time that the tea party-infused House Republican majority has rebelled against the party establishment since the GOP took control of the chamber 24 months ago. But with the two-year term set to end Thursday at noon, it was likely the last. And as was true in earlier cases of a threatened default and government shutdown, the brinkmanship came on a matter of economic urgency, leaving the party open to a public backlash if tax increases do take effect on tens of millions.</p><p>The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would add nearly $4 trillion over a decade to federal deficits, a calculation that assumed taxes would otherwise have risen on taxpayers at all income levels. There was little or no evident concern among Republicans on that point, presumably because of their belief that tax cuts pay for themselves by expanding economic growth and do not cause deficits to rise.</p><p>The relative paucity of spending cuts was a sticking point with many House Republicans. Among other items, the extension of unemployment benefits costs $30 billion, and is not offset by savings elsewhere.</p><p>Others said unhappiness over spending outweighed fears that the financial markets will plunge on Wednesday if the&nbsp;fiscal&nbsp;cliff&nbsp;hasn&#39;t been averted.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s a concern about the markets, but there&#39;s a bigger concern, which is getting this right, which is something we haven&#39;t been very good at over the past two years,&quot; said Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio.</p><p>For all the struggle involved in the legislation, even its passage would merely clear the way for another round of controversy almost as soon as the new Congress convenes.</p><p>With the Treasury expected to need an expansion in borrowing authority by early spring, and funding authority for most government programs set to expire in late March, Republicans have made it clear they intend to use those events as leverage with the administration to win savings from Medicare and other government benefit programs.</p><p>McConnell said as much moments before the 2 a.m. Tuesday vote in the Senate &mdash; two hours after the advertised &quot;cliff&quot; deadline.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ve taken care of the revenue side of this debate. Now it&#39;s time to get serious about reducing Washington&#39;s out-of-control spending,&quot; he said. &quot;That&#39;s a debate the American people want. It&#39;s the debate we&#39;ll have next. And it&#39;s a debate Republicans are ready for.&quot;</p><p>The 89-8 vote in the Senate was unexpectedly lopsided.</p><p>Despite grumbling from liberals that Obama had given way too much in the bargaining, only three Democrats opposed the measure.</p><p>Among the Republican supporters were Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, an ardent opponent of tax increases, as well as Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, elected to his seat two years ago with tea party support.</p><p>___</p><p>Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Larry Margasak and Julie Pace contributed to this story.</p></p> Tue, 01 Jan 2013 08:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cliff-avoided-congress-staves-tax-hikes-104629 Illinois comptroller: Fiscal cliff will cost state http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-comptroller-fiscal-cliff-will-cost-state-104618 <p><p>Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka estimates a $1 billion impact on the state budget if automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases take effect.</p><p>Topinka sent out a release Friday detailing the impact on the Illinois budget if Congress and President Barack Obama don&#39;t prevent the federal government from going over the fiscal cliff. Topinka says the fallout from the fiscal cliff could push Illinois into recession. Topinka estimates Social Security and income tax increases would lower Illinois tax revenues by up to $500 million.</p><p>Topinka says if a deal isn&#39;t reached to prevent the increases &quot;the consequences will be devastating.&quot; She says a planned 2 percent increase in Social Security payroll taxes could cost Illinoisans up to $6 billion in take-home pay.</p></p> Sat, 29 Dec 2012 11:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-comptroller-fiscal-cliff-will-cost-state-104618 Boehner's implosion saves Obama http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/boehners-implosion-saves-obama-104530 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS4275_Election%202010_12.jpg" title="Speaker John Boehner blew it" /></div><p>Just yesterday I was moaning about how President Barack Obama was about to give away the store -- <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/once-more-boehner-gets-better-obama-104476#comments">again</a></em> -- but thanks to John Boehner&rsquo;s implosion, he&rsquo;s been saved from himself.<br /><br />In the meantime, we&rsquo;ve been <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/171840/why-democrats-must-break-obama-social-security-cuts">spared a possible Social Security cut</a> and a few other unnecessary giveaways Obama had put on the negotiating table. At least for now.<br /><br />Why did GOP Speaker of the House walk away from Obama&rsquo;s deal? Well, maybe because conservative groups like Club for Growth, Heritage Foundation (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/scorched-earth-tea-partyer-jim-demint-resigns-senate-104253">Oh, Jim DeMint</a>!), Freedom Works and every Tea Party club in the country was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/20/fiscal-cliff-house-boehner-plan-b_n_2341539.html">against a deal of any kind</a>, especially if it involved raising taxes on at least two gazillionaires. Or maybe because Boehner <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/right-ballistic-over-john-boehner-purge-84612.html">removed a bunch of uncooperative right wingers</a> from crucial committee posts just a few days ago -- <em>talk about bad timing! </em>-- and they decided it was payback time, making it impossible for the Speaker to get the necessary votes out of his own conference.<br /><br />What exactly did Boehner think was going to happen when he walked away from Obama&rsquo;s swag bag to pursue a bill that not only the president had promised to veto (yeah, I know: he&rsquo;d also <em>promised</em> Social Security wouldn&rsquo;t be a part of the deal) but that hard-knuckled bespectacled Nevada Mormon, Harry Reid, had promised to asphyxiate upon arrival on the senate floor? He probably thought that he&rsquo;d use the bill to publicly posture, hoping Obama would follow historical patterns and agree, if not to the $1 million tax threshold, maybe higher than the $400,000 he&rsquo;d already bowed to.<br /><br />I don&rsquo;t know, maybe Boehner was <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/eric-cantor-plays-loyal-lieutenant-to-boehner/2012/12/18/14cce838-4782-11e2-b6f0-e851e741d196_story.html">set up by Eric Kantor</a>, the Republican House Majority Leader. Last time around, Kantor was a thorn not just in Obama&rsquo;s side but also in Boehner&rsquo;s. This time, he and that sneak Paul Ryan -- <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324677204578187852220502168.html">anybody seen <em>him</em> lately?</a> -- decided to fade stage right and let Boehner do whatever.<br /><br />And maybe, just like with those Mitt Romney polls that showed him winning up until the last minute, Boehner began to believe his own BS, began to think, like Kantor said less than 48 hours ago and with such certainty, that he had the votes.<br /><br />What&rsquo;s next? The Democrats will likely, and <em>heroically</em>, draft something now and start recruiting Republicans who don&rsquo;t want to go over the cliff. Or the Senate will act on House bills it&rsquo;s already got, reconciling something to death. Or we&rsquo;ll go over the cliff, which no one wants but which will be blamed squarely on the GOP now. The deadline is year&rsquo;s end.<br /><br />For Boehner, though, the worst cliff might come a little later: January 3, when the GOP elects a Speaker.</p></p> Fri, 21 Dec 2012 09:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/boehners-implosion-saves-obama-104530 Once more, Boehner gets the better of Obama http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/once-more-boehner-gets-better-obama-104476 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Obama%20Boehner.jpg" style="height: 293px; width: 620px;" title="Boehner vs. Obama (AP)" /></div><p>Perhaps you remember this year&rsquo;s presidential elections, the one in which the winning candidate had a five&nbsp;million-vote margin of victory and won many of the toughest battlegrounds by nice little cushions: Virginia by four points, Colorado by five, Iowa and New Hampshire by six, Ohio and Florida and even the hometown of the opposing ticket&rsquo;s VP candidate.</p><p>The winner, in fact, scored some historic points beyond race: He&rsquo;s <a href="http://poy.time.com/2012/12/19/person-of-the-year-barack-obama/#ixzz2FW6iXO3C">the first Democrat in more than 75 years</a> to get a majority of the popular vote twice. In all of American history, only five other presidents have done that.<br /><br />You probably remember talk of mandate, and you noted that though the opposing team &mdash; the Republican Party &mdash; kept control of the House of Representatives, they <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections,_2012">lost eight seats</a>. It&rsquo;s possible you know that the Democrats actually scored a vote victory in the House, with <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/171695/john-boehner-has-no-mandate?rel=emailNation#">congressional Democrats receiving one million more votes</a> than the GOP (which had its hide saved only because of severe gerrymandering).<br /><br />So if it&rsquo;s true that the election was a &ldquo;referendum of the president&rsquo;s economic policies,&rdquo; as Speaker of the House John Boehner claimed last summer when he still thought he as ascending, why is he still calling the shots on the fiscal cliff talks? Didn&rsquo;t President Barack Obama and the Dems win that election?<br /><br />While we&rsquo;ve been horrified and distracted by the Connecticut massacre, Boehner has been busy calling up <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2011-08-01/obama-bends-again-89908">the old Obama</a> &mdash; the same guy who allowed a government shutdown, who surrendered on budget talks, who extended unhealthy and destructive tax cuts, and who caved on the debt ceiling.<br /><br />This is the president who campaigned, with overwhelming support, to tax the top two percent of the citizenry. But now that&rsquo;s out the window. Obama&rsquo;s most recent offer &mdash; an offer that meets GOP demands more than halfway &mdash; would permanently extend Bush-era tax cuts on household incomes <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/18/1171522/-Christmas-comes-early-for-Boehner?utm_source=twitterfeed&amp;utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dailykos%2Findex+%28Daily+Kos%29">below <em>$400,000</em>,</a> meaning that only the top tax bracket, 35 percent, would increase to 39.6 percent. (Not surprisingly, Boehner now wants only those <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/us/politics/debt-reckoning.html#sha=cdc4a6ab7">making more than $1 million</a> taxed!)<br /><br />This is also the president who, at the start of the talks, promised that &ldquo;Social Security is not going to be part of this.&quot; But guess what? Suddenly it <em>is</em>!</p><p>Obama has agreed to Boehner&rsquo;s demand to include it in the deal, proposing to tie Social Security benefits to &ldquo;chained CPI,&rdquo; an accounting method that would a) decrease benefits for most SS recipients and b) move certain families into higher tax brackets. (For more on what this means, you can read<a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/12/18/chained_cpi_slowing_growth_of_social_security_benefits_is_unpopular.html"> here</a> and <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/what-is-chained-cpi-consumer-price-index-85251_Page2.html">here</a> and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/the-fiscal-cliff-offers-dueling-white-house-and-gop-perspectives/2012/12/18/fc8b54a4-4960-11e2-ad54-580638ede391_blog.html?hpid=z5">here</a>.)<br /><br />What&rsquo;s particular sickening about Obama&rsquo;s bending on this is that it&rsquo;s completely unnecessary, and gives truth to Republican lies about the program.<br /><br />&quot;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/dick-durbin-social-security-fiscal-cliff_n_2199224.html">Social Security is not part of the problem</a>. That&#39;s one of the myths the Republicans have tried to create,&quot; Harry Reid said earlier this year. &quot;Social Security is sound for the next many years ... It&#39;s not going to be part of the budget talks as far as I&#39;m concerned.&quot;<br /><br />But the White House, Sen. Reid, isn&rsquo;t really concerned about your concerns. Or, apparently, ours.<br /><br />What then are they thinking up there?</p></p> Thu, 20 Dec 2012 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/once-more-boehner-gets-better-obama-104476 Worldview: Fiscal Cliff, Mexico's president and the music of Haiti http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2012-12-05/worldview-fiscal-cliff-mexicos-president-and-music-haiti-104203 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Worldview_CMS_tile_1200x900_0.png" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-12-05-12.js"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-12-05-12" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview 12.05.12" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Wed, 05 Dec 2012 11:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2012-12-05/worldview-fiscal-cliff-mexicos-president-and-music-haiti-104203