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Congress Probably Can’t Avoid Fiscal Cliff, Brady Says

Congress won’t reach a deal this year to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to start in January, a senior House Republican predicted.

“With the clock ticking, it just becomes increasingly unlikely we can come together before New Year’s Day,” Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.

House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama will continue talking over the next 10 days, Brady said. He didn’t rule out using Obama’s latest offer to Republicans as the basis for an eventual agreement with additional spending cuts added.

“Why don’t they move that bill out of the Senate and so that the House can take up those provisions, if they’re real, with real, authentic spending cuts, and then let’s see if we can’t build that bridge,” said Brady, a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. “We are having trouble building that bridge from our side.”

Boehner’s “Plan B,” which would have extended tax cuts on incomes below $1 million, fell apart Dec. 20 amid resistance from Republicans who didn’t want higher taxes on anyone. Boehner scrapped a scheduled vote after he and other leaders had declared confidence that Republicans would pass it.

January Impact

If Congress doesn’t act, more than $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases will begin taking effect in January. As many as two-thirds of households won’t be able to file tax returns until at least late March, and the economy would probably go into recession in the first half of 2013, according the Congressional Budget Office.

Obama said yesterday he has urged leaders of both parties to get working on an interim measure to prevent taxes from rising on middle-income Americans even as they work on a more comprehensive package.

“I am still ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done,” Obama said less than 24 hours after Boehner failed to deliver enough Republican votes for his own plan.

The president met earlier yesterday at the White House with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, to discuss a strategy for advancing the negotiations.

Like Boehner, Brady called on Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate to come up with a plan that both parties can accept.

Entitlements Push

Before Boehner moved to Plan B, Obama had offered to start tax rate increases at $400,000 instead of $250,000, reduce future increases in Social Security benefits and drop his tax increase demand to $1.2 trillion from $1.4 trillion.

Brady, 57, said Obama’s most recent offer needs more spending cuts, such as raising the retirement ages for Social Security and Medicare.

“He hasn’t come close to matching what we’ve agreed to do, which is to take revenue -- significant amounts of revenue --and put them on the table,” said Brady, who has been in Congress since 1997. “And all those proposals that address Social Security, Medicare, are only because we have pushed so hard as Republicans to make that happen.”

Just as Boehner wasn’t able to deliver Republican votes for a higher tax rate, Obama may not be able to deliver Democratic votes for benefit cuts, Brady said.

Gun Control

“While he has talked about doing that, Democrats in the House and Senate this week were insisting that they come off the table,” he said. “And so I don’t think he’s actually even sold that to his own party for the most part.”

On guns, Brady said the question of why there are mass shootings is “much deeper and broader” than the “old warmed-up debates” on gun control.

Brady recounted how his father was killed in a courthouse shooting, leaving his mother alone with five children.

“I don’t want that to happen to any other family, but I am not convinced that the gun control provisions that are out there will change that or prevent that,” he said. “I think, frankly, we need to take a much broader look at this.”

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