With the nation still on the brink of the fiscal cliff, President Obama will leave his family in Hawaii tonight to return to Washington to see if he can push Senate Democrats into forging a deal.
The negotiations have moved from the House to the Senate after Speaker John Boehner inexplicably abandoned discussions with the White House when it appeared that a deal was close last week. Boehner instead tried to do an end-run around Obama and present House Republicans with his Plan B.
The Plan B was to pass a bill raising taxes on millionaires while keeping them the same for everyone else, demonstrating to the country that the Republicans were serious about tax reform while the president wasn’t. But the only problem: Boehner couldn’t even get a majority of House Republicans to go along with his Plan B, forcing him to pull it back from a vote last week and make the embarrassing admission that he couldn’t even get his own bill passed.
What Obama hopes is that he can get the Senate to pass a temporary stopgap measure that will cease the year-end tax hike that will go into effect on all Americans at all income groups and also put a halt on the drastic spending cuts, dealing with them later.
Obama hasn’t spoken to congressional leaders since last Friday, when he met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and spoke by phone with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). The president released a statement to reporters before leaving Washington, calling on all parties to use the Christmas holiday period to “cool off,” and he indicated that he would be back in town when Congress reconvenes Thursday.
Spotted doing his own grocery shopping at a midtown Atlanta Kroger on Sunday, Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) said he was preparing to return to Washington on Thursday to deal with the fiscal cliff.
The fiscal cliff tsunami that could take $2,000-3,000 out of the pockets of the average American is a confluence of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the expiration of President Obama‘s 2 percent payroll tax cut, and a huge cut in government spending, all set to go into effect at the end of the year and which would take a combined $800 billion or so out of the U.S. economy at a time when the nation is just recovering from the Great Recession.
According to polls, a strong majority of Americans support Obama’s position in the negotiations and a strong majority also says it would blame Republicans if the two sides failed to come to an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff.
As we’ve said before, this ultra conservative Republican army is the gift that the country has gotten from the intense gerrymandering that’s been done all across America by Republican-controlled state legislatures: In their effort to make as many conservative Republican districts as possible, they have now created a scenario where the House is full of politicians who are out of step with the rest of the country, representing right-wing communities so virulently opposed to Obama and everything he stands for that they would punish any Congressman who appeared to be giving Obama something that he wants—even if it benefits the country. As a result, these conservative Republicans refuse to even raise taxes on millionaires—because they took Grover Norquist’s pledge never to raise any taxes, and because it’s something Obama has been saying he wanted for at least the past year.
The Obama family has had a low-key vacation in Hawaii. On Christmas, the president visited with service members at the Marine base near where the family customarily stays outside of Honululu, thanking them and their families for their “extraordinary work and service.”
“So many of you make sacrifices day in and day out on behalf of our freedom, on behalf of our security. And not only do those in uniform make sacrifices, but I think everybody here understands the sacrifices that families make each and every day as well,” Obama told several hundred people at Anderson Hall at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Obama said the nation is “still in a wartime footing,” referring to troops stationed in Afghanistan and those about to be deployed there.
“You have an entire country behind you,” he said. “All of us understand that we would be nowhere without the extraordinary services you guys provide. And so we want to say thank you. We love you.”
On Christmas, the Obama family gathered around 8 a.m. to open their gifts, according to the Times, then they ate breakfast and sang carols.
In the evening, the Obama family and friends enjoyed dinner at their home, perhaps continuing their annual tradition of a talent show, which Michelle once explained this way:
“Everybody would put some gifts into a bag and you had to take a number, and then you had to do some kind of—anything. You would sing, dance, tell a joke – anything,” she said. “So everybody in the family would gather around after dinner and we would entertain each other. And we still do that at Christmas.”