Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist says technically lawmakers didn't violate their anti-tax pledge by voting in favor of the fiscal cliff deal, which increases tax cuts on households earning more than $450,000 annually.
He argues that because the Bush tax cuts expired the day before the vote, legislators were essentially cutting taxes by supporting the new bill that passed in the Senate and House on January 1.
Three days before 2012 ends, the president and House and Senate leaders meet to negotiate on a last-minute agreement. They're scrambling to meet a deadline they created – we're Keeping Them Honest.
With 28 days before the deadline, there's no compromise between Congress and the president. No behind-the-scenes negotiating, no staff level talks, nothing. Anderson Cooper is Keeping Them Honest.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell says in his day, the parties worked together despite opposing beliefs. He tells Anderson Cooper why reaching a fiscal cliff deal is much more of a challenge in 2012 than it would have been decades ago.
Although the issues and views from both sides haven't changed much, the difference is the personal relationships between members of the two sides."You didn't have the total polarization that you have today," says Mitchell.
After he was chosen as majority leader, Mitchell's first priority was reaching out to Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole. He recounts to Anderson the conversation that would set the tone for their working relationship. Mitchell told Dole, "If we don't have some degree of trust between us, it will be an impossible job," and he promised never to surprise him and never to try to embarrass him.
And in the six years they worked together, no harsh words were exchanged. "We debated vigorously on the floor of the Senate, but it was not personal," says Mitchell.
Forgive me, but haven't we seen this movie before in the aftermath of national elections? Usually, it doesn't end well.
In the weeks since his victory, President Barack Obama has argued - correctly - that voters are demanding that high-income Americans pay higher taxes as a way to reduce deficits. Some 60% in exit polls endorsed that proposition, and a Pew/Washington Post poll released this week found that 60% still support it. The president, then, has good reason to push the idea.
In a breakthrough, House Speaker John Boehner quickly lined up behind the idea of the wealthy paying more. He still disagrees with the president on how to get there, of course, but critics are losing sight of how far Boehner seems prepared to go. In private negotiations with Obama last year, the two men first agreed on raising $800 billion in new taxes over 10 years. When Obama pushed to see whether Boehner would go up another $400 billion to $1.2 trillion, the talks fell apart amid bitter recriminations and conflicting accounts of what happened.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Nebraska, says it would be politically advantageous for President Obama if no deal on the fiscal cliff is met by the end of the year, calling the administration’s proposals to tame the nation’s debt “disingenuous.”
"We come back from the election; we want to get the fiscal cliff resolved,” Terry told CNN on Friday. “But yet we aren't seeing anything from the White House.”
If no deal is reached by the end of the year, automatic federal spending cuts and tax rate increases will go into effect, a situation economists warn could slow economic growth and push the country back into a recession.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with