Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are stepping up their war of words over a looming lame-duck session that is already being described as "chaos in Congress," as they gird for a marathon debate tackling everything from the debt ceiling to hundreds of billions of dollars in scheduled tax hikes.I doubt there will be agreement on anything. Democrats will try and push all the deadlines to the max expecting the GOP to cave and give them what they want. And I expect the GOP will cave out of fear of what the media will do to them. Nothing could be worse for the motivation of the GOP voters than to see the GOP leadership in Congress give in out of fear.
At the center of the debate is the scheduled expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts.
This, combined with other changes like the expiration of the payroll tax cut backed by President Obama, will add up to a roughly $310 billion tax hike, according to a letter penned by Senate Republicans this past week.
"This would be, without any exaggeration, the largest tax increase in American history," they wrote.
The tax provisions, though, are just part of the mix. The country could bump up against the debt ceiling by early next year, leading House Speaker John Boehner this past week to once again demand spending cuts in exchange for a vote to increase that cap. In addition, spending cuts to the military and other areas triggered by last year's debt-ceiling deal are scheduled to kick in at the beginning of 2013.
With so much clumped on Congress' plate at the end of the year, leaders in both parties are calling on one another to begin dealing with the issues now -- as in, before the November election.
They're also moving to insulate themselves politically, by claiming to take the initiative on problems that months from now could end in stalemate.
If we have to shut down the government to avoid a bad deal on the debt or the Bush tax cuts, so be it.