America is headed over the fiscal cliff, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared on Thursday morning, blaming Speaker John Boehner.
“The American people are waiting for the ball to drop, but it’s not going to be a good drop. Because Americans’ taxes are approaching the wrong direction,” he said on the Senate floor. “Come the first of this year, Americans will have less income than they have today. If we go over the cliff, and it looks like that’s where we’re headed, the House of Representatives — as we speak with four days left after today before the first of the year — aren’t here. … I can’t imagine their consciences.”
With just four days left in the year, the Senate majority leader’s warning comes as little surprise. But it’s a stark reminder of the reality America faces and a rare one coming from a lead negotiator. Party leaders have mostly expressed hope that a deal will be struck.
Reid lashed out at Boehner for refusing to bring the middle income tax cut bill to a vote, saying the House is “being operated with a dictatorship of the speaker.” He chided the Ohio Republican for having “walked away” from negotiations with President Obama and resorting to “Plan B,” for which Boehner also failed to garner the votes.
“The Speaker just has a few days left to change his mind, but I have to be very honest,” he said. “I don’t know time-wise how it can happen now.”
Boehner and House GOP leaders said Wednesday afternoon that the Senate should act first, to which Reid retorted that the Senate-passed bill is the only one that can become law. He accused Boehner of prioritizing his speakership over the interests of the country.
“Everyone knows we can’t bring up anything here,” Reid said Thursday. “Unless we do it by unanimous consent. Because the rules have been so worked the last few years we can’t do anything without 60 votes.” He called on Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to step up, saying “so far they are radio silent.”
Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel shot back, saying in an email: “Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more. The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.”
The White House said Obama spoke to Democratic and Republican leaders Wednesday.
“President Obama spoke to all four Congressional leaders yesterday before departing for Washington, DC,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on Twitter.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.