Fiscal Cliff 2013: Negotiations Actually Start Better Than Expected


Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles covering progress of the lame duck session of Congress.

We all know the feeling. Get on the roller coaster, pull the bar down, and wait to go over the first drop. Once over the drop, we get the ride of our lives but in a short time we’re back on level ground. The bar is down and the cars are moving slowly up the first grade. The problem here is if we go over the first drop, the ride may be long before we reach level ground again. It’s up to Congress how this ride ends.

Over the past week I’ve written two articles delving into how Congress can prevent going over the fiscal cliff. The lame duck session of Congress convened this past Tuesday. On Wednesday, Congress and the president got serious. Will Congress prove it’s not totally broken?

Initial indications are yes. The president kicked it off on Tuesday by meeting with labor leaders to get their input. Reports of the meeting are not encouraging, labor not showing much of a willingness to compromise. However, this may turn out to be the only negative so far. The meeting with labor was followed on Wednesday with the president’s first press conference since being re-elected and a meeting with business leaders. In answering questions, Obama clearly opened the door, choosing words that indicated he is willing to listen, discuss, and reach a collaborative solution. The meeting with business leaders was also well received. Reports indicate the talks were honest with past weaknesses acknowledged and a willingness to move forward. Thursday, the president then met with congressional leaders. Reports coming out of this meeting show a fundamental agreement that a solution is needed and nothing is off the table. Even Senator Mitch McConnell (R- K.Y.) was able to agree. This may be the first time Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), McConnell, and President Obama agreed to anything. While this is a positive sign, more such agreement will be necessary in the coming weeks.

Some are suggesting a return to Simpson-Bowles as a framework for discussions. Since this was a bipartisan commission, it may make sense. Why reinvent the wheel. Also, this past Sunday, Press Pass, the blog of Meet the Press released a document obtained by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post that showed a final proposal from the White House to the Speaker of the House made last year that documents a willingness of the president to go quite far.

Last Tuesday night as election returns came in, I don’t think anyone knew how or if the fiscal cliff would be avoided. Uncertainty has certainly prevailed in the stock market. If what has occurred this week is any indication, Congress is accepting its responsibility to the country. There is still a lot of work to do, not only during the final six weeks of the 112th Congress, but also for the 113th if Congress is to truly show it is not broken and can regain the trust and confidence of the people. They are off to a good start.