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Harry Reid went on the offensive today against John Boehner:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this morning that it "looks like" Congress will fail to come to a deal to avert the year-end fiscal cliff, blaming the failure on House Speaker John Boehner's "dictatorship" running the lower chamber.
"It looks like that's where we're headed," Reid said. "I don't know, time-wise, how it can happen now."
It's not exactly a surprise — leaders left Washington last week without any imminent signs of a deal in the making. But it's a grim warning just days before tax hikes and automatic spending cuts begin to take effect.
Reid opened the Senate session by launching into a lengthy criticism of the House and Boehner, saying he "seems to care more about his Speakership" than making a deal on the cliff.
The House is being run "by a dictatorship of the Speaker," Reid said. He accused Boehner of waiting until the election of the Speaker on Jan. 3 to get involved with negotiations. And he urged the lower chamber to pass the Middle Class Tax Cut Act, which the Senate narrowly passed in July. The bill made permanent all of the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes of less than $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals.
Reid also slammed the House for not being in session on Thursday. He said that instead of being in Washington, Republicans are "out watching movies."
Meanwhile, President Obama cut his vacation to Hawaii short and returned to Washington on Wednesday, in an effort to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff. Only five days remain before the automatic spending cuts and tax increases are scheduled to take effect. Obama left for Hawaii on Friday after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations, but said he would return to the Capitol this week in an effort to get Republicans to agree to a stopgap measure or obtain a broader deal. Congress returns to D.C. on Thursday, but no talks are scheduled and there was no virtually no communication between the White House and Republicans over the holiday weekend.
As it turns out, House Republicans don't have plans to return:
"According to House Republican leadership aides, House GOP leaders have not yet called their members back to Washington D.C., and WILL NOT be in session tomorrow for legislative business. According to one GOP aide, "It's up to Senate Democrats to act right now."
During the House Republican conference meeting late Thursday night, leadership told the conference that they would be given 48 hours before being called back to D.C. after Christmas. According to aides, leadership has not given that notice yet."
Unless all of the House Republicans return to session, nothing is going to actually get done, even if any of the GOP leadership are around. Also, given the failure of Boehner's Plan B, there's certainly no reason to believe he is capable of negotiating on behalf of his conference.
The WSJ recently provided a glimpse of how negotiations between Obama and Speaker Boehner were going before they finally ended with the stalemate:
"Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn't reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.
I think that it is time to start treating the Republican house in the same way that you would treat spoiled children that demand attention and gifts. Ignore them completely. Just start to issue press releases about whom to blame. Why wait for the inaugural address or State of the Union speech?