Entries in Fiscal Cliff (84)


Poll: Public Lukewarm on Cliff Deal, But Obama Bests Boehner 

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Americans give a lukewarm response to last week’s agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, albeit with higher marks for the deal to President Obama than to House Speaker John Boehner.
More people in this ABC News/Washington Post poll approve than disapprove of the agreement, but just by a 7-point margin, 45 to 38 percent, with a substantial 17 percent undecided. Moreover, intensity is on the negative side: “Strong” critics of the deal outnumber its strong proponents by 2-1.

See a PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

At the same time, Obama gets majority approval for his handling of the negotiations, 52-37 percent, while Boehner’s score is reversed -- just 31 percent approve of his performance on the cliff talks, while 51 percent disapprove. Boehner’s positive score is up six percentage points from a month ago, but remains a broad 21 points behind the president’s.
Among those who favor the agreement, twice as many approve of Obama’s handling of the negotiations than Boehner’s, 86 vs. 43 percent. Indeed, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that Boehner lacks majority approval for his work on the fiscal cliff talks from any group. And while Obama breaks even on intensity of sentiment, strong approval of Boehner’s performance falls to the single digits.
Tellingly, among Democrats, 81 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the talks, including 44 percent who approve “strongly.” But among Republicans, Boehner gets just 38 percent approval overall, and a mere 10 percent strong approval.
The inclusion of tax increases for high-income Americans is likely a factor. People who describe themselves as “very” conservative are negative across the board -- 67, 66 and 57 percent, respectively, disapprove of the deal, Obama’s work on it and Boehner’s role as well. Boehner gets roughly the same level of disapproval from very conservatives as he does from liberals.
Political independents, for their part, split about evenly on the deal itself and on Obama’s handling of negotiations, but most disapprove of Boehner’s performance.
Approval of the deal itself surpasses disapproval among groups including women, nonwhites and lower- to middle-income adults. Men, whites, seniors, college grads and those with $50,000-plus incomes are more evenly divided.
Still, as noted, strong criticism of the deal surpasses strong support, 25 percent vs. 12 percent. That’s largely because strong disapproval jumps to 50 percent among very conservatives, 45 percent among Republicans and 40 percent among people in the $100,000-plus income bracket.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Pew Survey Gives Obama Win in 'Fiscal Cliff' Negotiations

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Who won the great "fiscal cliff" compromise battle?

By an overwhelming majority, 57 percent of respondents in a new Pew Research survey say the victor was President Obama, with 48 percent giving him high marks in his handling of the negotiations to fend off another recession.

The Pew survey, released on Monday, finds that only 20 percent of Americans say that Republicans came out on top and just 19 percent approved of the way they handled the tough fight with the White House in extending Bush-era tax breaks for most who pay federal income tax.

That being said, most respondents think the fiscal cliff legislation is more of a bust than a boon to their personal finances.  Fifty-two percent contend that they will be hurt by the outcome of the negotiations, while 30 percent say the deal will be a help to their bottom line.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Paul Ryan's Votes on Fiscal Cliff and Sandy Could Haunt Him Four Years from Now

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- These are the two Paul Ryans.

There's "Pragmatic Paul," the compromiser, who on Tuesday voted against most of his GOP House colleagues and with President Obama to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and, on paper at least, add $4 trillion to the national debt.

And there's the uncompromising budget hawk who opposed a bill that allows the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to take on $9.7 billion in new debt to help people and businesses devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

It is a case study for a man who has built up his brand as an intellectual leader, on the one hand, and someone who might have his eyes on higher office in four years.

The Sandy vote was less surprising as he had already spoken out against some of the extraneous items in the legislation, and Friday he said, "It would be irresponsible to raise an insolvent program's debt ceiling without making the necessary reforms."

"I agree with my colleagues that we must help those affected by Hurricane Sandy," Ryan said in a statement. "We should meet all of their needs as quickly as possible.

"Unfortunately, Washington's legislative response fails on both counts. It refuses to distinguish—or even prioritize—disaster relief over pork-barrel spending."

After his vote to prevent the nation from going over the fiscal cliff, he clearly foreshadowed the next fight, the one over the debt ceiling, one he is expected to take an active role in.

"We'll never get our debt under control unless we tackle its main drivers: too little economic growth and too much spending," Ryan said in a statement after the bill's passage.

He added that now is the time to "return our attention to the real problem: out-of-control spending."

So, what went into his thinking over the two different answers to two different bills?

Ryan is particularly close to House Speaker John Boehner. Ryan's first job in politics when he was still a college student was working on Boehner's first congressional campaign in Ohio. Ryan put out yard signs, something the two noted when Boehner joined the GOP vice presidential nominee on the 2012 campaign trail.

However, Ryan spokesperson Kevin Seifert said it was nothing more than, "pragmatic Paul voting his conscience."

The two votes four years from now may mean nothing or could haunt Ryan if he decides to run for president in 2016, depending on who is battling for the nomination.

The fiscal cliff vote could become an issue, particularly if his opponent is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who could highlight the fact that Ryan voted for the measure while Rubio voted against it.

The Sandy vote could also be resurrected if his rival is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who blasted members of his own party this week when Boehner decided not to vote on a $60 billion Sandy relief package after assuring lawmakers from the affected the states he would.

Paul Ryan's Two Votes May Have Consequences

Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said the votes could be politically manageable for Ryan.

"Looking through the 2016 primary lens, I think he can easily explain voting yes to avert the fiscal cliff meant to protect 98 percent of taxpayers and the issue of Hurricane Sandy designed to save taxpayers money," said Bonjean, who formerly served as both the lead spokesperson in the House and the Senate. "Put (the bill) through the regular House committee process where spending requests could be scrutinized then there wouldn't be any possibility of waste, fraud, and abuse. That's probably where he's looking."

Bonjean notes that the Sandy relief bill overwhelmingly passed anyway, although 67 members, all Republicans, opposed it.

"He's consistently voted with the leadership with big issues," Bonjean said. "We have not yet gone through the debate of spending cuts or the debt ceiling where spending cuts will be the debate. . . In a 2016 primary, he can say, 'Yes I voted to protect 98 percent of taxpayers from having their taxes raised, but guess what. I also worked hard to make sure that we had more than enough spending cuts as the permission slip to raise the debt ceiling.'"

Bonjean added: "He's taking a look at the long game."

Ryan notably had a low profile during the fiscal cliff negotiations letting Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor be the faces of the fight. He was working behind the scenes, as an aide to Ryan said last month, as a "resource to the speaker, a resource to House Republicans."

Will Ryan be more vocal on the looming battle to raise the debt ceiling? It will be one to watch.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


President Obama Signs Fiscal Cliff Bill Via Autopen

The White House(HONOLULU) -- President Obama has signed the “fiscal cliff” legislation into law via autopen from Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family.

The bill to avert the fiscal cliff arrived at the White House late Wednesday afternoon and it was immediately processed, according to a senior White House official. A copy was delivered to the president in Hawaii for review. He then directed the bill to be signed by autopen back in Washington, D.C.

The Bush administration deemed in 2005 that the use of the autopen is constitutional, although President George W. Bush never used the mechanical device to replicate his signature on a bill.

The office of legal counsel found at the time that Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution allows the president to use the autopen to sign legislation, stating “the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it.”

Obama has used the autopen twice in the past to sign legislation, both times while he was overseas.

The president, who arrived back in Hawaii early Wednesday morning to continue his family vacation, spent the afternoon golfing with friends at the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay.

Obama is slated to remain in Hawaii through Saturday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Panetta Thanks Congress for Suspending Deep Pentagon Spending Cuts

Department of Defense Photo by Glenn Fawcett(WASHINGTON) -- One person who breathed a particularly huge sigh of relief after Tuesday's congressional compromise on the fiscal cliff was Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

He had already braced the Pentagon to be ready for a series of deep budget cuts known as sequestration that would total around $500 billion over 10 years.  However, the bill passed by the House and Senate puts those spending reductions on hold for at least two months.

Panetta, who plans on retiring soon, issued a statement Wednesday expressing gratitude to lawmakers from both parties for putting a temporary halt to sequestration, adding, "Hopefully, this will allow additional time to develop a balanced deficit reduction plan that would permanently prevent these arbitrary cuts."

For the past year, since Congress approved the budget cuts to help bring down the nation's debt, Panetta has been on a campaign to get members of Congress to change their minds on sequestration, saying it "would have a devastating impact on the department."

Panetta acknowledged that he "would have been required to send out a notice to our 800,000 civilian employees that they could be subject to furlough" if the fiscal cliff compromise had not been reached.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Biden Basks in Glow of Successful 'Fiscal Cliff' Negotiations

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For Vice President Biden, the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 was a chance for him to ride to the rescue again by using his 36-year career in the Senate and relationships on both sides of the aisle to broker a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

As the progress to reach a deal stalled in the Senate with just over 24 hours until the deadline, the vice president was called in to lend a hand in helping "jumpstart the negotiations," as described by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

And at least one person attributes the eventual success of the fiscal cliff talks to Biden, the former Delaware senator.

As Biden departed from a meeting with Senate Democrats late Monday evening, the vice president was asked what made the difference in the negotiations.

"Me," Biden said with a smile.

McConnell reached out to Biden Sunday afternoon after he was unable to negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Biden and McConnell, whose relationship dates back to the 24 years they served alongside each other in the Senate, held late-night and early-morning phone calls on Sunday and Monday morning as they hammered out a compromise before New Year's Eve end.

In the span of 14 hours, Biden went twice to Capitol Hill to sell the brokered deal to Democrats. He first met with Senate Democrats late on New Year's Eve and returned to the Hill on New Year's Day to speak with Democrats on the House side.

The bill crafted by Biden and McConnell received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate with a vote of 89-8, and was passed by a vote of 257-167 in the House Tuesday evening.

The fiscal cliff deal adds to the list of the vice president's successful negotiations with McConnell. In 2010, he worked with the minority leader to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, and in the summer of 2011, they worked together to negotiate a plan to raise the nation's debt limit.

But before Congress and the White House came to an agreement in 2011, the debt ceiling package also experienced a few fumbles. Biden was tasked with leading a debt ceiling panel comprised of members of both parties, but the talks broke down when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican, decided to step away from the conversations. Biden and McConnell helped negotiate a plan just days before a potential default.

Biden appeared alongside President Obama late Tuesday evening as the president praised the cliff deal, calling the vice president "extraordinary" for his help in negotiating the package.

The vice president is expected to use his knack for compromise in the coming months as he spearheads efforts to craft gun policy with White House cabinet members and outside groups in the wake of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Speaking to reporters the day after winning the election, the vice president predicted the role he'd play in his second term as vice president.

"I think I'll probably be asked to play a similar role on the debt issue that we did last time. I think my reaching out to the Congress, the Senate," Biden told reporters aboard Air Force Two the day after the election. "I also know I'll be doing a lot of foreign policy, so it will be whatever the issue of the day is. Like I told him the first time, I only want those assignments that have a 'sell by' date."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Fiscal Cliff Deal Leaves Charities’ and NGOs’ Fears Unresolved

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The fiscal cliff agreement passed late Tuesday night extends some much-needed benefits and tax breaks, but looming spending cuts leave minority and poverty-stricken communities in limbo.

Leaders in the nonprofit community praised the bill’s handling of some aspects like the charitable-giving tax deduction. But in other areas, they said they felt it failed to support them, and by extension, left poverty-stricken Americans who depend on their services in a state of flux.

Though it would have put billions of dollars back in the budget, Congress voted this week to keep the charitable deduction with one change: The deal brings back a limit on how much taxpayers can deduct.

The Limitation on Itemized Deductions, commonly called the "Pease Limitations" after the congressman who created it, was part of the 1986 tax reforms and reduced deductions made by high-income earners. Tuesday’s deal defines that threshold as those making $300,000 or more for couples and $250,000 for unmarried individuals.

But Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, called the amount it shaves off wealthy Americans' itemized deductions nothing more than “a haircut.”

“On the whole nonprofits, for the time being, are looking at [keeping the charitable deduction despite the cap] as a disaster averted, because there were proposals to substantially take away charitable giving,” Delaney said.

Maya Wiley, president of the Center for Social Inclusion (an advocacy group focusing on eliminating social inequalities), said the extension of the earned income tax credit was especially important for African-American households, whose real median income had not recovered to pre-recession levels at the beginning of 2012, according to the Census Bureau.

She also praised Congress for extending unemployment benefits.

The unemployment rate for black Americans in November was 13.2 percent, 5.5 points higher than the national average and 6.4 percent more than among whites.

But overall, Wiley called the deal “a fiscal fiasco” for its failure to address spending cuts that would mean a steep drop in discretionary spending.

Title I, a Department of Education initiative aimed at improving academic achievement in disadvantaged communities, is an example of a program that would face cuts under the sequester, according to Wiley.

Said Wiley, “1.6 million kids will lose funding just from Title I alone.” Of that 1.6 million, Wiley said 1 million are black and Latino. “We haven’t had a sufficient conversation about who really is going to get hurt by that.”

Like a sword of Damocles, these prescribed cuts hang over the heads of charities and NGOs, keeping the nonprofits in a state of instability, not knowing if the local governments who hire them to serve their neediest residents will have the funding necessary to pay for their work two months down the road, according to Delaney.

The members of Congress who voted to put the cuts off until March “seem disconnected with the real work that’s going on in their home states and their districts,” Delaney said.

“The key is for them to recognize how their failure to act has created a dark cloud over the ability of community-based nonprofits to function, that the uncertainty of whether funds will flow to the states and to the local governments to meet their needs is causing consternation and freezing the ability of people to make informed decisions out in the field,” Delaney told ABC News by phone Wednesday.

But Fergus Hodgson, director of fiscal policy studies at the John Locke Foundation (a free-market think tank based in North Carolina), said the struggles experienced by nonprofits is “such a small drop in the ocean” in comparison with what he sees as the real problem at hand: reforming programs like Social Security and Medicare to curb the nation’s growing debt.

“It’s about reforming our future obligations or addressing them,” Hodgson said. “There was absolutely no change to those forms of entitlements, and as we speak those entitlements or the deficits associated with them are just continuing on all the time.”

JD Foster, a tax economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, blamed President Obama for the lack of entitlement reform in the final bill.

“We had an opportunity to cut spending,” Foster said. “And the president said no.”

There was one thing actors on both sides agreed on: The deal left the country in a state of uncertainty instead of putting Americans’ fears to rest.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Vacationing Obama’s Options to Sign ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal Include Air Force Jet, Autopen

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Congress officially delivered the bill to avert the fiscal cliff to the White House Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner’s office told ABC News.

Now the question is when will the president sign it?

The bill, passed late on New Year’s Day, expires Thursday at 11:59 a.m. when the current session of Congress concludes. If President Obama doesn’t sign it by then, constitutionally the bill is dead.

But Wednesday evening, eighteen hours before the deadline, the president is on a golf course in Hawaii.  And the bill is in Washington at the White House.

Administration officials won’t say what they will do despite repeated inquiries from ABC News.

There seem to be two options:  1) An Air Force jet can deliver the bill to Hawaii in time for the president to sign it before 11:59 Eastern Standard Time; or, 2) the White House can use a presidential “auto-pen.”

The simple mechanical device uses a template of the presidential signature to scrawl it on paper if activated by the White House at Obama’s direction.

But would an auto-pen – usually used to sign insignificant correspondence and photographs – pass constitutional muster?  We don’t know.  The question has never been tested by the courts.

A 2005 legal study commissioned by former President George W. Bush determined that use of the autopen is constitutional but acknowledged the possibility that its use could be challenged.  Bush never used the autopen, officials from his administration told ABC.

President Obama is only believed to have used the autopen once to sign a piece of major legislation — the 2011 extension of the Patriot Act — which reached his desk while he was on a diplomatic trip to Europe. Officials invoked national security concerns to justify the move.

Use of the autopen has been controversial.  Conservative groups alleged last summer that Obama used an autopen to sign condolence letters to the families of Navy SEALs killed in a Chinook crash in Afghanistan — a charge the White House disputed flatly as false.

In 2004, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was criticized for using an autopen to sign condolence letters to the families of fallen troops.

And in 1992 then-Vice President Dan Quayle got into some hot water over his use of the autopen on official correspondence during an appearance on This Week with David Brinkley. More HERE.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Hails 'Cliff' Deal, Warns of Next Fiscal Fight

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Minutes after the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan Senate deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" and preserve Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans making less than $400,000 per year, President Obama praised party leaders and wasted little time turning to the next fiscal fight.

"This is one step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy for everybody," Obama said.

Obama lamented that earlier attempts at a much larger fiscal deal that would have cut spending and dealt with entitlement reforms failed.  He said he hoped future debates would be done with "a little less drama, a little less brinksmanship, and not scare folks quite as much."

But the president drew a line in the sand on the debt ceiling, which is set to be reached by March.

"While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether they should pay the bills for what they've racked up," Obama said.  "We can't not pay bills that we've already incurred."

An hour after his remarks, Obama boarded Air Force One to return to his planned Hawaiian holiday vacation, reuniting with his family, who have been vacationing there since just before Christmas.

House Republicans agreed to the up-or-down vote Tuesday evening, despite earlier talk of trying to amend the Senate bill with more spending cuts before taking a vote.  The bill delays for two months tough decisions about automatic spending cuts that were set to kick in Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Returns to Hawaii Vacation Post-Cliff Deal

White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Less than an hour after Congress and the White House resolved the fiscal cliff, President Obama boarded Air Force One to return to his planned Hawaiian holiday vacation.

He boarded the plane at Joint Base Andrews in Camp Springs, Md., shortly before midnight Wednesday following a New Year’s Day of political drama on Capitol Hill.

The 10-hour overnight flight was scheduled to arrive in Oahu around 5 a.m. local time Wednesday when he will reunite with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, who have been vacationing there since just before Christmas.

The president began his family holiday -- his first extended personal time outside of Washington since the presidential campaign -- on Dec. 21.  But he had to cut the trip short due to unresolved talks over the fiscal cliff, returning to the White House two days after Christmas.

While in his native Hawaii, Obama his expected to spend time with his family at their private rental home; golfing on a local Marine base; and enjoying the outdoors on the beach or area hiking trails.

No word from the White House on when the president is expected to return.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio