Will Fiscal Cliff Break Gridlock?

Will Fiscal Cliff Break Gridlock?


Congress resumes today for the first time after the elections. On top of the agenda: dealing with the “fiscal cliff” that would hamstring Washington and could bring on another recession. The election didn’t change the balance of power in Washington. But after years of gridlock in Congress, Colorado’s Senators say legislators needs to find bipartisan solutions, and with the fiscal cliff looming, they can’t afford to wait until the next session. David Frey reports from Washington, D.C.

Listen here: Fiscal Cliff and Gridlock

In his victory speech after the Tuesday night election results rolled in, President Barack Obama made an appeal for compromise to address what he sees as some of the biggest issues facing the nation. Here is he speaking to supporters in Chicago:

[Obama: “Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs not ours. In the coming weeks and months I am looking forward to reaching out and working w leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.”] [33 sec]

But Republicans in Congress have been unwilling to compromise much with Obama in the past. After the election, the landscape in Washington looks pretty much the same. Obama is still president. Republicans still hold the House. And Democrats still hold the Senate, but without enough votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.

With these results, is there any reason to believe the gridlock in Congress will end?

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat, says he’s optimistic Congress will respond to what he believes is a public outcry for bipartisanship.

[Bennet: I say that because I’ve had meeting after meeting after meeting, town hall after town hall after town hall, and that’s what I  hear, and if  I’m hearing it I think everybody must be hearing it and that I think is gong to lead to a change in conditions even though the political arrangements didn’t really change.”] [18 sec]

Bennet says the impending “fiscal cliff” – the year-end combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts – may force the two parties to come together to work on budget cuts and tax reform even before the next session. The fiscal cliff won’t just hit Washington. It’s expected to be a major blow to the U.S. economy and could send the nation spiraling back into a recession.

[BENNET: “We’re now out of time and it’s time for people to come together here and bite the bullet and do the right thing for the American public.”] [9 sec]

Colorado Senator Mark Udall, also a Democrat, agrees.

[UDALL: “So let’s buckle down. Let’s go to work next week. Let’s not kick this off until next year and the new Congress. Let’s lay down a framework to both cut some spending, generate some additional revenue, reform the tax code and strengthen Social Security and Medicare. It’s there for the doing. Both parties are going to have to work together. If the parties don’t work together, I think the American people will have short patience with all of us.”] [30 sec]

Like Bennet, Udall says he’s hopeful that lawmakers will seek some common ground.

[UDALL: “Look, there’s plenty of ways to find that common ground and it starts with getting a deal on the budget.”] [5 sec]

Republican Representative Scott Tipton is among the incumbents to win back his seat in the election. His office didn’t respond to requests for an interview with Aspen Public Radio. But other Republicans are signaling that the gridlock that has gripped Washington may be easing — at least in the short term. House Speaker John Boehner has suggested he would consider increased tax revenue as part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, but only if Democrats are willing to tackle changes to costly entitlement programs.

For Aspen Public Radio News in Washington, D.C., I’m David Frey.