Congress is once again racing the clock to avoid the automatic spending cuts set to go into effect if a financial compromise cannot be reached in the coming weeks.
At the center of the debate are tax increases on all income over $250,000 for couples and spending cuts for public programs.
If lawmakers cannot decide before the end of the year, both parties will fall off a “fiscal cliff,” taking Bush-era tax cuts for the lower and middle class with them.
“I’ll just repeat: There is no reason why taxes on middle-class families should go up,” President Barack Obama told cabinet members Nov. 28, according to a statement.
Earlier in the day, Obama said a typical middle-class family of four would see its income taxes go up by $2,200.
“That's $2,200 out of people's pockets,” he said. “That means less money for buying groceries, less money for filling prescriptions, less money for buying diapers. It means a tougher choice between paying the rent and paying tuition. And middle-class families just can’t afford that right now. “
The president then urged constituents to flood their representatives in Congress with tweets, e-mails, letters, and phone calls in support of extending tax cuts for the middle class.
Republicans say small businesses will suffer greatly if an agreement is not reached, as 700,000 jobs could be lost.
With no action, the automatic cuts will begin at the start of January and slice $1.2 trillion from the budget, affecting both defense spending and health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
“Unfortunately, many Democrats continue to rule out sensible spending cuts that must be part of any significant agreement that will reduce our deficit,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.
“Without spending cuts and entitlement reform, it’s going to be impossible to address our country’s debt crisis, and get our economy going again, and to create jobs.”
Haggles over where to cut or increase taxes and spending have caused some Republicans to step away from the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by activist Grover Norquist, which promises to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business.”
“Times have changed. I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told Georgia CBS affiliate WMAZ. “If we do it his way then we'll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
Chambliss said that he wasn’t afraid to face any repercussions that might come with breaking the pledge.
“I don't worry about that because I care too much about my country,” she said. “I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist.”
A total of 219 members of the House of Representatives and 39 Senators are on the 113th Congressional List of the Federal Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
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