I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I read that the Kentucky Republican asked the White House for some assistance in getting a deal done on so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations because he had reached an impasse with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Vice President Biden was dispatched to help and by Monday afternoon, President Obama said a deal was “within sight, but it’s not done.”
McConnell, the man who vowed from the beginning of Obama’s first term that his primary mission would be to deny the president a second term, finally seemed to realize that if a deal wasn’t worked out that most Americans would be prepared to put the blame on the Republicans and Congress.
It suddenly became in his interest to pull out an agreement, even at the last minute.
NPR and other news organizations posted regular updates on their websites and through regular tweets. By the end of business on Monday, the House had recessed until noon on Tuesday and it looked as if the Senate wasn’t likely to produce anything the house would be willing to consider before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.
The good news is while we were all primed to look at the Jan. 1 deadline as the political equivalent of the late and little lamented Mayan Calendar doomsday scenario, the fact of the matter was a deal could still be worked out before financial markets opened on Wednesday and even if negotiations dragged on a little longer, whatever got worked out could be made retroactive.
So we hunkered down to wait to fall off the cliff as if it were the ball in Times Square waiting to drop.
And then, about 9 p.m., an agreement was announced.
Under the deal, income taxes would rise significantly for those making $450,000/year or more and unemployment benefits would be extended a year with no strings attached. Republicans gave ground on the spending cuts and agreed to a two-month delay paid for in part with fresh tax revenue, a condition they had resisted, according to The Washington Post, which laid out some of the details of the plan.
For sure there will be more wrangling and neither Republicans nor the Democrats will be completely satisfied. As I write, there is still a chance that the House, which wasn’t going to look at the deal until Tuesday afternoon, might reject the deal out of hand.
So the fall off the cliff is more like a slide – to the next deadline.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”