For 16 months, Democrats and Republicans behaved like a husband and wife in an ugly divorce proceeding, not speaking to each other except through invective.
Now they will see if their troubled marriage can be salvaged, for the sake of the children, which in this case is the U.S. economy. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reiterated last week that jumping off the cliff would boost the jobless rate to 9 percent from the current 7.9 percent.
For Obama, who won four more years in office in Tuesday’s election, this is his moment to bring a “balanced approach” to healing the nation’s fiscal problems.
In the Democrat’s eyes, that means keeping lower tax rates for the poor and middle class, while forcing the rich to pay more income taxes. White House spokesman Jay Carney renewed the president’s vow to veto legislation that simply extends the tax cuts, which originated during the administration of President George W. Bush.
If Republicans were to agree to the higher tax rates on the wealthy, that would open the door to deals on a new round of spending cuts, including sensitive “entitlement” programs, such as the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly, some Democrats say privately.