Utah congressional delegation sees long days ahead on 'fiscal cliff' talks
SALT LAKE CITY — Some members of Utah's congressional delegation aren't optimistic about a solution to the apparently stalemated "fiscal cliff" negotiations.
At the rate talks are going, Rep. Jason Chaffetz figures he'll be spending the holidays in his Washington office.
"I'm going to go get me a Christmas tree," Chaffetz said. "Sounds like I'm going to need not only a Christmas tree but some confetti for New Year's."
Whether he or anyone will have something to celebrate depends on what end of the cliff the country wakes up on Jan. 1.
Republicans are demanding that President Obama agree to more spending cuts. The main components of the president's latest offer include $600 billion in cuts, with $1.4 trillion in tax increases. The Republican offer, meanwhile, is the opposite. It includes $800 billion in revenue increases and $1.4 trillion in spending cuts.
Obama and Democrats in Congress want tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year to be extended for taxpayers with income below $250,000 a year, but not for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Republicans are holding out for an extension of all the tax cuts, contending small business would be devastated without them.
Chaffetz described the current talks between congressional Republicans and the president as fluid.
"There's nothing like a deadline to drive a decision," he said. "I worry that until that deadline is upon us with seconds on the clock, nothing will happen."
Rep. Jim Matheson said it's hard to know where things are headed because only Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, are in the meeting room.
"There are lots of rumors and different things in different press publications and blogs on the Internet, but it's hard to know what's true and what's not," said the only Democrat in the state's delegation.
Matheson said he thinks an agreement will be reached, but it should include long-term solutions such as hard dates for entitlement and tax reforms.
Rep. Rob Bishop said he has bounced from hopeful to disappointed, but now is a "little more ambivalent."
Some have suggested that Obama appears willing to go over the fiscal cliff, he said.
"To be honest, I am very hard-pressed on why he is so intransigent and not willing to even talk about the offer Republicans have put on the table to raise revenues in an alternative form. The entire thing does not make sense to me," Bishop said.
Specifically, he said those offers have included limiting some tax loopholes and moving toward a flat tax.
Sen. Orrin Hatch blamed the impasse on the president, saying Obama knows that if the nation goes over the fiscal cliff, he gets what he wants anyway.
"The problem is he's risking the country in the process," he said.
Hatch said allowing tax cuts on the wealthy to expire would "hammer" a million small businesses.
"That's who I'm fighting for. I could care less about these rich billionaires," he said.
Hatch said he doubts an agreement can be reached by Christmas.
"I don't believe the president is going to agree to a deal under any circumstances," he said.
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