Fiscal cliff update Dec. 3: No visible changes

The week begins with no sign that President Obama and Republican legislative leaders are closer to Yes on an agreement to avert widespread tax hikes and sequestration of some spending increases, both of which will kick in without a new budget agreement before January 1. Apparently it was not a fluke when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “laughed out loud” at Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s “one-sided plan” to shift more budget decision-making to the executive branch.

With talks on averting the “fiscal cliff” stalled somewhere between “Nowhere” (according to House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican) and “no progress” (according to most of the Sunday commentators), this may be shaping up as another Groundhog Week. There are 28 days left in the year.

Washington Post: No deal a “growing probability”
Both sides are “uncompromising,” according to the Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb, with the Sunday talk shows revealing little to no change in positions on the so-called Bush tax cuts and the need to get federal spending under control: Goldfarb quotes a Geithner appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press: “There???s no path to an agreement that does not involve Republicans acknowledging that rates have to go up on the wealthiest Americans.”

National Journal: Few signs of progress
NJ’s Jim Tankersley pits Geithner and Boehner’s TV appearances against each other and says there has been no visible change in positions. Nevertheless, he notes one cause for optimism in “the decided lack of rancor.” Separately, Tankersley expands on Bohner’s weekend comments, highlighting the speaker’s surprise at last Thursday’s White House plan, which threw aside any hints of compromise and doubled down on Obama’s commitment to tax increases. “We???ve laid it all out for them: a dozen different ways you can raise revenue on what the president calls the richest Americans, without raising rates,” Boehner said. “The president has seen a lot of the options from us.” Also at NJ, Ronald Brownstein notes that the Democrats’ gains in the Senate last month have solidified not only the party’s coalition but its position on fiscal issues.

Lindsey Graham: “We’re going over the cliff”
BusinessInsider’s Brett LoGiurato picks out the grimmest view on the negotiations: the assessment on CBS’ Face the Nation by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “I think we???re going over the cliff,” said Graham. “It???s pretty clear to me they made a political calculation??? The president’s plan does nothing but damn us to becoming Greece.” Graham called the president’s proposed entitlement cuts “a joke.”

Norquist: Get fiscal cliff talks on camera
Politico’s Reid J. Epstein highlights an important suggestion from Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist: to televise the fiscal cliff negotiations. “It???s the president who is threatening to raise taxes on the middle class if he doesn???t stamp his feet and get his way,??? Norquist told Meet the Press. “He should get into a room with C-Span cameras there and negotiate. Let’s have it in front of C-Span cameras. And if the Republicans are being reasonable, we???ll see that. If they???re not, we???ll see that. Gotta have cameras in that room.” Also at Politico, Anna Palmer says that while the decline and fall of Norquist has become a favorite media talking point, “Republicans across the ideological spectrum say Norquist is as influential as ever these days, since most trust that he???ll support whatever fiscal cliff proposal leaders endorse in the end.” Human Events had a similar assessment of Norquist’s Q rating last week.

Fox News: Political dare
Fox News highlights the game of chicken as talks resume again this week: “Democrats and Republicans elevated their political brinkmanship Sunday on fiscal negotiations in Washington, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner challenging Republicans to improve on his offer — which Republicans dismissed as ‘non-serious’ and an attempt to undermine negotiations.”

Scott Stantis: Hot rod negotiations
Speaking of the game of chicken, Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis follows the “fiscal cliff” metaphor to its logical conclusion. It’s not clear who, except maybe the cliff,  is James Dean in this particular competition.