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Everybody chill about the fiscal cliff — Joe Biden's got this; Updated

By Doug Powers  •  December 31, 2012 11:08 AM

**Written by Doug Powers

Joe Biden is really earning that pay raise.

On the campaign trail, Biden was salivating over the idea of raising taxes by over a trillion dollars, and now the players in the negotiations seem to have boiled down to Joe and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell:

McConnell and Biden “continued their discussion late into the evening (Sunday) and will continue to work toward a solution,” said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart, pledging “more information as it becomes available.

Midnight is the deadline for the White House and Congress before the onset of the automatic tax hikes and budget cuts known as the fiscal cliff.
McConnell said Sunday he called Biden “to see if he could help jump-start negotiations on his side.” The Republican leader noted that he and Biden have worked well together during previous budget battles, including the 2011 stand-off over the debt ceiling.

Both the Democratic-run Senate and the Republican-run House plan to meet Monday, with hopes of voting on some kind of agreement. Both chambers must approve a deal before it can be sent to President Obama and signed into law.

The possibility of Joe Biden determining the country’s financial future combined with finding out that my designated driver for tonight is Sam Donaldson is making for a really nervous day.

As Ed Morrissey at Hot Air wrote this morning, the chances that a deal can be put together that can then clear both the Senate and the House and be on Obama’s desk before midnight are slim.

The biggest laugh line was delivered toward the end of the above article:

Lawmakers are also searching for a plan to begin reducing a national debt that now exceeds $16 trillion.

And naturally any debt-reduction agreement reached will require an obligatory raising of the debt ceiling to make room for all the savings… or something. Now that Biden’s leading the discussion, that philosophy will make more sense:

File under “Republican cave-watch”: Senate GOP have taken a reduction in Social Security cost of living adjustments off the table as a source of potential savings.

Also, try and figure out who’s not on Obama’s list of people to blame for the fiscal cliff. You probably guessed it already.

Update: Things are taking shape, at least on the tax end of things:

As Obama prepared to deliver remarks about the “fiscal cliff” at the White House, negotiators for the administration and McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to have nailed down many of the most critical tax issues, including a plan to let taxes rise on income over $450,000 a year for couples and $400,000 a year for individuals, according to people in both parties familiar with the talks.

McConnell said after Obama’s speech that he and Biden spoke multiple times Monday morning since their first 6:30 a.m. call and managed to resolve their differences on taxes. But he echoed Obama’s contention that the two sides had not yet resolved a dispute about whether to delay automatic spending cuts. McConnell urged Congress to pass the tax agreement — and debate replacing the so-called “sequester,” as the automatic spending cuts are known, in coming months.

“We’ll continue to work on finding smarter ways to cut spending, but let’s not let that hold up protecting Americans from the tax hike that will take place” on New Year’s Day, he said. “We can do this. We must do this.”

Under the proposed accord being hammered out by Biden and McConnell, households earning less than $450,000 would largely escape higher income tax bills, though couples earning more than $300,000 a year and individuals earning more than $250,000 would lose part of the value of their exemptions and itemized deductions, under the terms of the emerging agreement.

Reportedly the tax terms are locked. No official word yet about how much higher the debt ceiling will be raised in order to accommodate any additional “deficit reduction measures” (pause for laughter).

However, at a press conference the president supposedly called to announce that a deal was near, Obama seemed to instead use the occasion to try and torpedo any progress that might have been made:

But his midday press conference, with a group of middle-class Americans looking on, was not without a bit of bravado as well. Obama took multiple shots at Congress for it’s clumsiness in negotiations and insisted that he’d demand more tax hikes if the legislative body used the impending debt ceiling standoff to demand spending cuts.

In the process, the president irked several Republican aides, who suggested that the entire fiscal cliff deal had been complicated because of his tone and criticism.

“Potus just moved the goalpost again. Significantly. This is new,” tweeted a top aide to McConnell.

Doug Haye, a spokesman for House Majority Whip Eric Cantor, tweeted, “If Obama’s goal was to harm the process and make going over the cliff more likely, he’s succeeding.” Another Cantor spokesperson said, “So….I’m confused….does POTUS want a deal or not? Because all those jabs at Congress certainly sounded like a smack in the face to me.

Obama’s probably just upset because he was hoping to get back to Hawaii asap, but it’s not happening and he realized that today.

Update II:

Update III:

“Highly likely” there will be a vote tonight on the Senate side, but the House is expected to adjourn until tomorrow.

Obama supporters applauded during talk of taxes going up on the wealthy (h/t GWP):

No applause here but I did laugh when he said “deficit reduction.”

By the way, the US officially hit the debt ceiling today.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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