Not home for Christmas: Obama, Congress should spend holiday together

Parties need to solve fiscal cliff dilemma before leaving town

Dec 18, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

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President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, along with every member of Congress, should be prepared to spend Christmas together.

They should pack their pajamas and get ready to exchange Christmas gifts with one another, trim the tree, drink lots of eggnog and kiss under the mistletoe. Their families will just have to understand that their congressmen dads and congresswomen moms cannot be with them for the holiday because they need to be together to finish their work on the fiscal cliff.

Congress was scheduled to wrap up its work last week, but legislators returned to Washington on Monday and leaders have already warned members to be prepared to stay until Christmas and return just after the holiday until year-end.

I am afraid that's just not good enough.

After all, tough times call for tough action.

We reprimand our children and teach them to play nice when they bicker over who has the best toy and aren't willing to share. Good parents encourage kids to share, to play together and to work together to resolve their issues. Apparently, we need to do the same with members of Congress, because they're not doing it on their own.

Both sides need to find a way to play nice. They need to roll up their sleeves and start working together to find a solution to resolve the fiscal cliff dilemma.

It is past time to eradicate ideological rigidity. It's time to get things done, and if that means they have to work through the holiday and not spend time with their families, then so be it.

The country deserves to see a bipartisan commitment from Congress through a spirit of cooperation.

Instead, Congress and the President have been behaving like spoiled children, so they need to be treated like spoiled children.

Make no mistake: Both Republicans and Democrats are to blame for the country's current stalemate, and it must stop. Partisan politics, stubbornness, selfishness and the passing of blame all have a hand in the lack of work — and leadership — coming out of Congress to resolve the fiscal cliff.

Both parties must reach across the aisle and focus on finding common-sense solutions to the dilemma by supporting policies that will solve our nation's financial problem.

The two sides on Monday apparently came significantly closer to bridging gaps on critical issues such as tax hikes for the wealthy and cuts in Social Security cost-of-living benefits. Those two issues have the potential to cause problems politically for Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner as Republicans and Democrats start to study them.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner made the most headway on extending the reduced tax rates originally enacted under President George W. Bush. Both have agreed to keep the low rates for everyone but the wealthy, but they still differ on who qualifies as wealthy for tax purposes.

Behind the scenes, administration officials and senior Republican aides continued to make progress.

The reaction today from their respective party allies in Congress may help determine how much further each can go to finish off a deal and how much longer it would take to do so.

A deal would have to be reached by Christmas to allow time for the legislative process to approve the required measure or measures by the end of the year.

With that said, President Obama and members of Congress should prepare to gather around the old yule log as they complete the necessary work on the fiscal cliff.

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