WNYT.com

Congressmen react to fiscal cliff predicament

Posted at: 12/01/2012 11:41 PM
By: Dan Levy

COBLESKILL - Democrats and Republicans in Washington have until the end of this month to reach an agreement that would prevent taxes from going up more than $2,200 a year for nearly every American family.

Some political pundits believe even though the public persona makes it look like there's a stalemate, behind the scenes, there may be progress. However, neither Congressman Paul Tonko (D - Amsterdam) nor Congressman Chris Gibson (R - Kinderhook) share that sentiment.

"Let's just recognize the fact that when you talk about an agreement, no one is going to get everything that they want," Gibson said, Saturday night, while attending a tree lighting ceremony in Cobleskill.

Rep. Paul Tonko seems equally troubled.

"You don't want to threaten and challenge the comeback from this recession," Tonko says.

Tonko believes another recession is a real possibility if Congress doesn't act, and the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of the year, which would drive the country over a proverbial fiscal cliff.

President Obama has spent this past week reminding Americans their taxes will go up if Congress doesn't act.

"That's sort of like, the lump of coal you get for Christmas," the president told a crowd near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "That's a scrooge Christmas."

The president is offering $1.6 trillion in new revenue, half of it coming from higher tax rates for the wealthy, as well as $600 billion in cuts to domestic programs like Medicare, and $50 billion in infrastructure spending.

Republicans seemed less than impressed.

"This is not a game," declared Rep. Eric Cantor (R - Virginia), the House Majority Leader. "We're not interested in playing rope-a-dope."

"It's not a serious proposal," asserted Rep. John Boehner (R- Ohio), the Speaker of the House. "Right now we're almost no where."

"Everybody has to recognize the fact that to come together, everybody is going to have to give a little bit," Gibson said.

"The bantering, if it's produced, with soundness of numbers and an alternative will get us to that final consensus," Tonko added.

"If the leadership is not able to come up with an agreement," Gibson continued, "We have a viable alternative that we can bring forward for our colleagues to vote on."

But Tonko believes the president's reelection last month gave him a mandate from voters.

"I think he's offered a good, balanced, thoughtful approach and the upper hand is that the public is behind those sentiments," Tonko stated.

The Democrat-controlled Senate has passed a bill that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for middle-income families, while letting tax cuts for wealthier Americans end.

Republicans in the House have passed a bill that would extend tax cuts for just about everyone.

Leaders from both parties say their bill should be the starting point for finding a solution in the coming weeks.