IT'S NOT JUST WASHINGTON
Seems like they could just make nice, shake hands and split their differences, right?
But there's a reason neither side wants to give ground. The two parties represent a divided and inconsistent America. True, Obama just won re-election. But voters also chose a Republican majority in the House.
Republican and Democrats alike say they are doing what the voters back home want.
Neither side has a clear advantage in public opinion. In an Associated Press-GfK poll, 43 percent said they trust the Democrats more to manage the federal budget deficit and 40 percent preferred the Republicans. There's a similar split on who's more trusted with taxes.
About half of Americans support higher taxes for the wealthy, the poll says, and about 10 percent want tax increases all around. Still, almost half say cutting government services, not raising taxes, should be the main focus of lawmakers as they try to balance the budget.
When asked about specific budget cuts being discussed in Washington, few Americans express support for them.
Time for deal-making is short, thanks to the holiday and congressional calendars. Some key dates for averting the fiscal cliff:
— Lawmakers aren't expected to return to the Capitol until after Christmas, leaving less than a week to vote on a compromise before year's end.
— Obama and his family also left town for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii. The president said because the fiscal cliff was still unresolved, he would return to Washington this week.
— If lawmakers reach Dec. 31 without a deal, some economists worry that the financial markets might swoon.
— The current Congress is in session only through noon Eastern time on Jan. 3. After that, a newly elected Congress with 13 new senators and 82 new House members would inherit the problem.
Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn, Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor and Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report. Follow Connie Cass on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ConnieCass