Not long after Fitch sounded the alarm bells for the urgent need of a comprehensive debt deal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) have indicated their willingness to work with both sides of the aisle in finding common ground to avoid the fiscal cliff. This is encouraging, given that both parties are coming off of a tough fought election.
Speaker Boehner identified replacing the fiscal cliff with a comprehensive debt deal as a serious matter that needs congressional action. He seemed to indicate his party was open to additional revenues as long as it was accompanied by serious entitlement reforms and fundamental tax reform.
Republicans have signaled a willingness to accept new revenue if it comes from growth and reform. Let's start the discussion there. I'm not suggesting we compromise on our principles. But I am suggesting we commit ourselves to creating an atmosphere where we can see common ground when it exists, and seize it....
There is an alternative to going over the fiscal cliff, in whole or in part. It involves making real changes to the financial structure of entitlement programs, and reforming our tax code to curb special-interest loopholes and deductions. By working together and creating a fairer, simpler, cleaner tax code, we can give our country a stronger, healthier economy. A stronger economy means more revenue, which is what the president seeks.
Senate Majority Leader Reid is also focused on the upcoming fiscal cliff and resolving our deficit problem. Reid believes a deal is possible in the next year and does not want to delay action any longer.
I’m not for kicking the can down the road. I think we’ve done that far too much. We know what the issue is; we need to solve the issue. Waiting for a month, six weeks, six months–that’s not going to solve the problem.
I think that we should just roll up our sleeves and get it done.
Both Leader McConnell and Chairman Camp echoed those thoughts. McConnell said that work on the fiscal cliff "begins by proposing a way for both parties to work together in avoiding the ‘fiscal cliff’ without harming a weak and fragile economy, and when that is behind us work with us to reform the tax code and our broken entitlement system." On tax reform, Camp said "I believe the House and Senate are prepared to act next year on reform and that not only means a fairer tax code and more jobs, but also more revenue to help solve our nation’s debt and deficit problems."
These leaders recognize that the outcome of the election means that both parties will have to work together -- nothing will get done otherwise. The willingness to come together and the apparent willingness to consider a wide array of options looks very encouraging for an attempt to steer around the cliff and to also address the debt. Speaker Boehner also discussed having a "downpayment" on deficit reduction to be a catalyst for the bigger pieces being enacted in 2013. Given the amount of time left, that may be the way a deal may have to go, but it is encouraging to hear the Speaker thinking about a comprehensive plan.
The leaders of both houses have set the tone for reaching a bipartisan and comprehensive fiscal plan. There's a bunch of work left to do, but given how soon these statements came after the election, the shift toward compromise is very encouraging.
Click here to read the Campaign to Fix the Debt's statement on the post-election action.
Video of Speaker Boehner's remarks
Video of Majority Leader Reid's remarks