The lame duck session of Congress begins tomorrow, and the number one thing on everyone's mind is that darn fiscal cliff. With 50 days left until the end of the year, and a slam-bang combination of tax raises and horrible spending cuts, all anyone can wonder about is whether anything will solved. Our daily reading of the fiscal cliff tea leaves suggest that it just might—which is easy to say when the two sides haven't actually started talking to each other yet.
However, we did start to see more of that jockeying for position, particularly on the right, where the wisdom of not playing hardball was floated in public over the weekend. The New York Times reported on Saturday that House Speaker John Boehner held a conference call with House Republicans the day after the election to remind them that their party lost, badly, and they need to come to grips with that. The "subdued and dark" caucus members grudgingly agreed to stand by the Speaker's message of compromise, suggesting they be willing to accept a reality in which the president is in the driver's seat. That doesn't mean they have to give up everything they want, but no one is talking about an open revolt that defies the Speaker's strategy and puts a government shutdown on the table. For now, anyway.
It also didn't help the hardliners to hear a staunch Republican ally going on TV to defend the idea of giving in to the president. When The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol was on Fox News Sunday he suggested that raising taxes wouldn't exactly be the worst thing that ever happened to them. His attitude helped articulate the public relations problems that come with Republicans' tricky stance. As he said:
"It won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires ... Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of them live in Hollywood?"
That's sounds more like what an MSNBC liberal would say than a Republican, though. With friends like that, who needs Chris Matthews?
Finally, we got another reminder that it is not just the American economy at stake here. The rest of world is eagerly watching this fight and may even have more riding on it, since they already tried the whole "scare your politicians into doing some drastic to solve your debt problems." That didn't work out so great for them, says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of The Daily Telegraph:
To those who wish to let the fiscal cliff run its course, one can only caution that Europe offers us the grim lesson of what happens if you go down that route, even if is not a “pure” experiment. ... It would be a double tragedy if the US succumbed debt fetishism and made the same historic misjudgment.