• 3:00AM: Departs Hawaii en route the White HouseMeanwhile, John Boehner is staying on vacation in West Chester, Ohio. He is, however, holding a conference call with members of the Republican conference.
• 11:30AM: Arrives at Joint Base Andrews
• 11:45AM: Arrives at The White House
Republican House leaders are holding a "members only" conference call at 2:30 p.m. Thursday as the path is not clear to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff by the Dec. 31 deadline.So even as President Obama cuts short his Hawaii vacation in the hopes of getting something done on taxes before they go up at the end of the year, John Boehner is keeping his butt firmly planted Ohio, where he's apparently negotiating with ... his fellow Republicans. By telephone.
I can't say I blame Boehner for not wanting to talk with his fellow Republicans face-to-face, especially after they rejected his Plan B. If I were him, I'd definitely want to keep a box of tissues and tumbler filled with scotch at my side, and I certainly wouldn't want any of it caught on camera.
Boehner says he's staying in Ohio until the Senate takes action to extend tax cuts, but the Senate already did that—in July. Boehner, meanwhile, couldn't even get his Plan B to the floor for a vote. So, barring some last minute epiphany on the part of the GOP about the political pummeling they are about to take, taxes for everybody are about to go up—starting at midnight on Monday. Adding to the bad news: unemployment benefits will expire for two million Americans.
Even if House Republicans continue to hold tax cuts and unemployment benefits hostage past their December 31 expiration, the new Congress can always retroactively extend them. If they don't do so quickly, however, the economic fallout will be swift as jobless Americans run out of cash and IRS withholding increases.
In addition to the expiring tax cuts and unemployment benefits, we're also set to hit the statutory debt limit on Monday and the automatic spending cuts contained in the sequester will also become effective. Fortunately, the administration has tools to delay the impacts of the debt limit and sequester cuts for a few weeks or months, but if House Republicans can't even bring themselves to cut taxes and extend jobless aid, the debt limit and sequester cuts will eventually become an issue.
Altogether, if Congress does nothing on taxes, unemployment benefits, or spending cuts, the Congressional Budget Office projects the unemployment rate would rise to 9.1 percent by the end of the year.
As important as it is to avoid that scenario, in the long run it's even more important to end the dynamic where Republicans obtain political leverage by holding the country hostage every six to twelve months. If they had been willing to compromise before the so-called cliff, there probably was a deal worth making. But we can't afford to keep on giving in to their increasingly extreme ransom demands. The hostage-taking must end.