Today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the country was headed over the fiscal cliff in a speech on the Senate floor. Reid blamed Republicans, and specifically House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for the failure to pass legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff by the January 1, 2013 deadline.
In his remarks Reid said that with four days left he does not see how both chambers can now pass a bill to avoid the fiscal cliff. With an ominous tone Reid declared,
“Come the first of this year, Americans will have less income than they have today. If we go over the cliff, and it looks like that’s where we’re headed, the House of Representatives — as we speak with four days left after today before the first of the year — aren’t here. … I can’t imagine their consciences.”
In his harshest criticism yet, Reid said that the House is “being operated with a dictatorship of the speaker.” Reid pleaded with Boehner to return to negotiations with President Obama, but said he was pessimistic about the prospects of getting anything done given the limited time left.
Speaker Boehner’s office shot back by releasing the following statement,
“Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more. The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.”
The main issue now is division of the Republican controlled House and the Democrat controlled Senate. Reid and Democrats would prefer to pass a bill which extends lower tax rates for all incomes below $250,000, but as Reid mentioned today he cannot even bring that bill up for a vote without 60 votes, which would require many Republicans to vote for the bill. Republicans do not want anything to pass out of the Senate because that would add tremendous pressure on Republicans in the House to pass the same legislation.
Speaker Boehner tried to put pressure on the Senate Democrats by pushing his own “Plan B” which would have raised tax rates on incomes over $1 million, but Boehner could not even pass that legislation out of his own chamber since many of his members are opposed to any and all tax increases.
If Boehner were to bring up the Democrats’ bill in his chamber there is a good chance it would pass with the votes of Democratic representatives and some Republican members, but Boehner does not want to do that at the risk of upsetting his own caucus.
The result is the current gridlock we have today, and come January 1 most Americans will begin feeling the pain from congressional inaction.