Help us Senator Obi-Wan Kenobe - You're our only hope
With the Republican House tying itself up in knots over a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, the last chance to reach a deal may lie with the Senate where GOP members are more open to tax increases.
Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, both Republicans, implored Senate leaders to reach an accommodation with Mr. Obama when Congress returns on Thursday, even if that meant that taxes would go up for those with high incomes and that spending cuts would be put off.
Mrs. Hutchison, appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation," said the tax cuts signed into law by President George W. Bush should be extended "at a reasonable salary level."
"We can't let taxes go up on working people in this country," she said, backing Mr. Obama's calls for a stripped-down temporary measure. "It is going to be a patch because, in four days, we can't solve everything."
It also shifted the action to the Senate as the last hope to stop more than half a trillion dollars in tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts from kicking in on Jan. 1. The president urged senators to take up legislation extending the Bush-era tax cuts on income under $250,000 and preventing the expiration of unemployment benefits, while delaying the defense and domestic spending cuts to allow negotiations on a deficit deal continue.
"The fact that the House Republicans spent a week wasting time we didn't have has greatly exacerbated the problem," said Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama's communications director.
The hope is that the less polarized Senate will be different from the House. It is run by Democrats and includes several Republicans who are openly backing a deal.
GOP Senators may support a surrender to the president but it is still highly unlikely that Republicans in the House will back a tax increase. However, if House Democrats vote unanimously for a Senate plan, only 17 Republicans need to break ranks with the rest in order to get a deal passed. If Boehner gives his blessing, that scenario is very likely.
But if Boehner gives in to the Senate, it may give impetus for calls for a change in the speaker's chair. With the Republican House in such disarray, can Boehner afford to climb on board with a Senate deal?
I guess we'll see later this week.