Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Obama seeks new strategy on fiscal cliff

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, conceding that a "grand bargain" for deficit reduction with Speaker John Boehner is unlikely, called Friday for Congress to approve a stripped-down measure by year's end to prevent a tax increase for all but the richest taxpayers and to extend aid for 2 million unemployed Americans.

"That's an achievable goal; that can get done in 10 days," Obama said to reporters during a hastily scheduled evening appearance in the White House briefing room. "Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually think we can get this done."

The president, who took no questions, read his statement just after a brief phone conversation with Boehner and a separate meeting at the White House with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader. It was Boehner's stinging defeat Thursday night — when rebellious antitax House Republicans blocked a vote on his tax plan, after he had suspended negotiations with Obama — that forced the president to reach for a fallback strategy with Senate help.

By Friday, both the House and the Senate had closed for the Christmas break, and soon after his statement Obama left with his family for their annual holiday trip to Hawaii, his native state. His return date is dependent on events, aides said.

But as he and Democrats in Congress envision the coming days, the Senate would reconvene Thursday to pass a compromise bill with commitments of cooperation from both Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, to keep the process moving.

Facing the Dec. 31 deadline for the expiration of all Bush-era tax cuts, McConnell would need to promise not to filibuster and Boehner would have to agree to a House vote on the Senate-passed bill.

Presumably, the sort of fallback measure that Obama seeks could pass in the House only with strong support from Democrats, since conservative Republicans, by their revolt against Boehner this week, have signaled that they would not approve even legislation that raises tax rates for fewer than 1 percent of Americans.

While many in both parties believe that Boehner will permit the vote on a compromise under the intense pressure, with public opinion on the newly re-elected president's side, doing so could threaten his already weakened speakership among conservatives.

Without such action, taxes would increase Jan. 1 for every taxpayer. National polls have shown that most Americans would blame Republicans.

Obama, backed by congressional Democrats, is proposing as he has for four years that the Bush tax rates be extended permanently for all income less than $250,000 a year. In negotiations with Boehner he had tentatively agreed to raise that threshold to $400,000, and congressional Democrats on Friday said they would go as high as $500,000 if it would seal a deal with Republicans.

But the Republicans' rejection of Boehner's bill Thursday indicated that such a concession by Democrats would not sway the anti-tax absolutists among them. The speaker's so-called Plan B would have extended the Bush tax cuts for income up to $1 million, meaning a tax increase for only an estimated 0.3 percent of households, yet that was too much for many of his members.

While the strategy that Obama and Reid are now pursuing requires the acquiescence of both Republican leaders, McConnell has given no indication whether he would give it. Asked at the Capitol before Obama's statement whether he would agree not to filibuster the stripped-down bill, he stepped onto an elevator and said, "Merry Christmas."

Boehner has not said when or whether he would call the House back in session, but a spokesman said late Friday that the speaker would return to Washington from his Ohio home after the holiday "ready to find a solution that can pass both houses of Congress."

"It is time for the Democratic-run Senate to act, and that is what the speaker told the president tonight," said Boehner's spokesman, Brendan Buck.

Comments
New York Yankees spread cheer during Children’s Holiday Concerts (w/video)

New York Yankees spread cheer during Children’s Holiday Concerts (w/video)

The event spread free holiday cheer to more than 5,400 children from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. _informq.push(['embed']);...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Without getting into specifics – especially the who and the where – Rays officials are for the first time talking optimistically about making a trade before the winter meetings end Thursday.Speaking at around 5:15, senior VP Chaim Bloom s...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 3 – updated with news

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 3 – updated with news

UPDATE, 5:55: Trade talks apparently picked up this afternoon, perhaps related to previous activity by other teams, and for first time Rays officials sound like something could happen tonight."At this point today, some of those conversations are movi...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Rick Scott issues executive order on sexual harassment reporting for state employees

Rick Scott issues executive order on sexual harassment reporting for state employees

State agencies must adopt uniform policies on sexual harassment and provide worker training for supervisors and new employees, Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday.Scott said he issued an executive order to better protect state employees under his con...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Reuters demands Myanmar release its 2 journalists

Reuters demands Myanmar release its 2 journalists

Reuters news agency has called on Myanmar to immediately release its two journalists who were arrested for possessing "important secret papers" obtained from two police
Updated: 6 minutes ago

AP Top News at 10:46 p.m. EST

AP Top News at 10:46 p.m. EST
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Ky. lawmaker accused of assault dies in apparent suicide

Ky. lawmaker accused of assault dies in apparent suicide

A Republican lawmaker in Kentucky facing sexual assault allegations has died of an apparent suicide
Updated: 7 minutes ago

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingSuper Bantamweights: Salgado vs. Diego De La Hoya10:30 p.m.ESPN2College basketballBethune-Cookman at USF7 p.m.820-AMValparaiso at Northwestern8 p.m.Big TenSouthern at Baylor8:30 p.m.ESPN2College volleyball, NCAA semifinalsNebraska vs. Penn...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
First-ever Falcon Nobis dies at 74

First-ever Falcon Nobis dies at 74

ATLANTA — Tommy Nobis, the first player drafted by the expansion Falcons and a hard-hitting middle linebacker who was never fully recognized for his talents on a struggling franchise that failed to make the playoffs during his long career, died Wedne...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s difficult to call a volleyball program that has been to the Final Four eight times an underdog, especially the way Florida rallied to beat Southern California and punch its latest ticket. Yet of the four schools descending on ...
Updated: 22 minutes ago