Fiscal Cliff Deal: Boehner and Congress Got the Short End of the Stick

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his fellow Republicans will have to compromise with President Barack Obama in order to protect millions of Americans from the combination of across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes set to kick in on January 1. There will be more than $500 billion in tax increases as well as $109 billion in defense and domestic program cuts as certain Bush-era tax breaks expire and the defense sequester goes into effect.

Republicans and Democrats can agree that these increases and cuts cannot happen; however, in typical U.S. government fashion, no one can agree on what the solution is. The fiscal cliff talks occurring on Capitol Hill and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have been nothing more than a game of ping pong: each side rejecting the other’s proposal, adding in their own provisions, and then serving it back.

Speaker Boehner hit a dead end with his ideas as his House colleagues rejected his proposal to extend tax cuts for all except those making over $1 million earlier this month. Boehner sought more spending cuts, particularly to mandatory health care spending, than the president in order to compensate for lost tax revenue. The House’s opposition to their party leader left Boehner with less leverage in the talks. Perhaps that is why Boehner has largely been left out of all fiscal cliff negotiations since then — talks have mostly occurred between the Executive branch and Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

The House reconvened for a rare Sunday session on December 30 but is waiting to see what the Senate will produce. With his voice already silenced by his colleagues, Boehner may just have to agree to a short-term solution crafted by the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate. This solution would most likely include extending tax cuts for middle-class families (with household income below $250,000) and unemployment insurance while delaying the automatic spending cuts set to take effect in the new year. This band-aid solution forces Boehner to fight hard for additional reform during the 113th Congress.

Let’s hope the American people aren’t the ones to get the short end of the deal.