Obama to cut vacation short for fiscal cliff talks

Can Washington come together to avoid the fiscal cliff before the clock runs out in six days?  Barack Obama will cut his Christmas vacation short, returning tomorrow to Washington from Hawaii in order to seek a deal:

President Barack Obama is due back in Washington early Thursday for a final effort to negotiate a deal with Congress to avert or at least postpone the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and government spending cuts set to begin next week.

No specific bill dealing with the cliff was on the schedule of either the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, which are expected to return on Thursday after the holiday break. Investors are closely watching the talks, concerned that going over the cliff could throw the economy into recession.

Aides and members of Congress have said that a modest, last-minute measure to avoid the spending cuts and most of the tax hikes could pass the Democratic-controlled Senate if Republicans agree not use a procedural roadblock known as a filibuster, a commitment that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has so far not made.

But to win approval in the Republican-controlled House of any bill that raises taxes on anyone, a rare bipartisan vote would be required. All 191 Democrats would have to team with up with at least 26 Republicans to get a majority if the bill included tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans, as Obama is demanding.

Reuters misses the fact that Democrats could have had that last week.  John Boehner’s Plan B proposal did just that, providing permanent rate extensions for everyone earning under a million dollars a year.  That concept came originally from Democrats and Nancy Pelosi, just a few months ago.  Boehner pulled it because he couldn’t get enough votes out of his own caucus to pass it, but had Democrats voted for it, they would have had exactly what Reuters describes, plus a new AMT patch on top of it, with spending cuts addressed separately.

Instead, Pelosi let Boehner twist in the wind, telling reporters that time had somehow expired on a proposal she originated.  Pelosi and her caucus were more invested in making Boehner look bad than in protecting taxpayers from the fiscal cliff, and the US economy from recession.

Meanwhile, with Obama and Capitol Hill coming back to work for last-minute brinksmanship, lawmakers will need lots of coffee for the upcoming late-night sessions.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz plans to take advantage of that need by having his shops use their cardboard cups as hand-held billboards:

Starbucks Corp will use its ubiquitous coffee cups to tell U.S. lawmakers to come up with a deal to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff” and triggering automatic tax hikes and spending cuts.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in Starbucks’ roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write “come together” on customers’ cups on Thursday and Friday, as U.S. President Barack Obamaand lawmakers return to work and attempt to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the Christmas holiday.

Starbucks’ cup campaign aims to send a message to sharply divided politicians and serve as a rallying cry for the public in the days leading up to lawmakers’ January 1 deadline to deliver a plan to avert harsh across-the-board government spending reductions and tax increases that could send the United States back into recession.

“We’re paying attention, we’re greatly disappointed in what’s going on and we deserve better,” Schultz told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Obama has already heard this cri de coeur, and has reached out to the one man in Washington known for his ability to calm the rhetoric and reach out for compromise:

Obama is expected to turn to a trusted Democratic ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to help craft a quick deal.

Er, riiiiiiight.  Order up some more coffee, please.