Senior lawmakers said Thursday that they were moving quickly to save the U.S. from certain financial ruin and to secure the nation’s southern border by relocating the fiscal cliff to the boundary with Mexico, where the trillions of dollars in tax increases and automatic spending cuts — should they go into effect – would only be felt by those trying to gain entry into this country illegally.
“It’s time we stopped just kicking this problem down the road and, instead, kick it all the way to the Mexican border where it will do some good,” said Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina.
Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who has been circulating a draft plan to overhaul the tax code and entitlements and to move the fiscal cliff “out of harm’s way,” said he had met with 25 senators from both parties and had been on the phone “nonstop since the election trying to find a way for us to move forward and southward on this fiscal crisis facing the country.”
“It’s not often you have the chance to do something, as a lawmaker, where you will be able to see the results almost immediately,” he said while glancing at an architectural rendering on his office desk showing an imposing cliff separating the U.S. from its southern neighbor.
Senator Olympia J. Snowe, the Maine Republican who will retire at the end of the year, made it clear that she intends to press for a deal to avert the threatened tax hikes and budget cuts and to get serious on the deficit, even if it involves some half-baked plan to move the fiscal cliff out of Washington.
“Sometimes you have to do what feels right even if it doesn’t seem to make sense, and this is one of those moments,” she said.
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, extended an olive branch to Republicans, suggesting Thursday that he could accept a plan that leaves the fiscal cliff at Mexico’s doorstep, provided that loophole closings in the nation’s tax code, and costs associated with relocating the fiscal behemoth, would hit the rich, not the middle class. He previously had said that he would accept nothing short of a return to the top tax rate of Bill Clinton’s presidency, 39.6 percent.
“I’m not sure what it will take to get this thing to the border,” Mr. Schumer said of the fiscal cliff, “but obviously there is some push and pull, and there are going to be compromises along the way.”
House Speaker John Boehner — sporting a new lapel pin with the words “Construction, Not Obstruction” — said lawmakers were taking the economic threat seriously and are heeding the warning of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that the nation could well plunge into recession next year if Congress fails to deal decisively with the fiscal cliff.
Page 2 of 2 - “We’ve come up with a solution — an elegant fiscal and constructional solution — that will restore the confidence of the marketplace and is fair, effective, painless, good for our national security, and won’t cost the taxpayers another dime,” Mr. Boehner said.
The House speaker conceded that Congress is still unsure of the scope of the manpower and heavy equipment needed to transport the enormous $7 trillion cliff some 1,700 miles southwest to the border.
“This isn’t something you can just strap to the roof of your car, like a pet dog, and drive off,” he said.
And Mr. Boehner acknowledged that finding a company with the financial, engineering, and law enforcement know-how to carry out the job won’t be easy
“We have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it,” he said. “But this is something we have to do, so we’ll find a way to do it and a way to stick those trying to enter the country illegally with the bill.”
Mr. Schumer said he was glad to see the House’s Republican leadership playing a constructive role again in the legislative process and was heartened that its members had given up on the “Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale” of relying on economic growth to fix the nation’s budget woes.
“This is a solid proposal we can all get behind — and we all might have to if we hope to move this thing all the way south,” Mr. Schumer said.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, his hands strengthened somewhat by regular workouts during the Congressional recess, called for his colleagues to work quickly while expressing concern about their physical readiness for the task ahead.
“We know how to make a mountain out of a molehill,” Mr. Reid said as he shadowboxed in his office. “The question is, do we know how to move it?”
Philip Maddocks writes political satire and humor for GateHouse Media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.