5 (more) key fiscal cliff players

December 3, 2012

In our Monday Fix newspaper column, we laid out five politicians not named Barack Obama or John Boehner who will have a major role to play in the final month of fiscal cliff debate.


But, in our conversations with Democratic and Republican operatives regarding the key players in the debt and spending debate, it became clear that there were far more than five people worth taking note of.  

So, without further adieu, here are five more politicians to watch between now and the end of the year.

* Joe Biden: Yes, the two biggest players in this fiscal drama are Boehner and Obama. But, don't forget that before Biden was elected vice president in 2008, he spent almost four decades in the Senate. Those relationships will be absolutely critical if/when the administration needs to find a way to round up the votes it needs for a deal in the Senate. 

Dave Camp: We mentioned the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in passing in our newspaper column but decided he's worth a longer look. Any major tax legislation will have to move through Camp's committee, and the Michigan Republican has been adamant that the best way to deal with the country's debt problem is a major overhaul of the tax code. But Camp is not a rigid ideologue -- read this terrific Lori Montgomery profile of his work with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) -- and how much he is willing to bend could help shape the parameters of a deal.

*  Tom Cole: Cole, who spent a career as a Republican political consultant before being elected to Congress from Oklahoma, has emerged as a leading -- and dissonant -- voice within the GOP on the fiscal cliff. He insists that the party extend the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans before the end of the year, leaving the debate over what to do with rates for the top 2 percent of earners until next year. Cole's willingness to break with the pack -- when added to his connections to national reporters -- have made him a player.

* Bob Corker: The Tennessee Republican senator was just re-elected last month and, as such, should have the sort of political wiggle-room he needs to be a dealmaker. Corker's own proposal to solve the problem, which includes capping deductions at $50,000, has won him kudos on Capitol Hill and ensured him a continued voice in the conversation.

Patty Murray: The fourth-ranking Democrat in the Senate is perennially underestimated, but talk to anyone who really knows how the world's greatest deliberative body works and they will tell you that the Washington senator commands respect and moves votes -- particularly among the rank and file progressives in the chamber. (Make sure to read Roz Helderman's profile of Murray and the role she may play in a budget deal.)

Fiscal cliff update: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is predicting that the fiscal cliff will not be averted, citing an initial offer from the White House that Republicans have criticized as not being serious.

"I think we’re going over the cliff. It’s pretty clear to me they made a political calculation. This offer doesn’t remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy. It raises $1.6 trillion on job creators that will destroy the economy and there are no spending controls,” Graham said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

Meanwhile, Cole says the total Democratic package is "not a real proposal" despite urging his party to take the Democrats' deal on taxes; Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says if Republican don't like the proposal, they should issue a detailed counter-proposal; Grover Norquist says a second tea party wave could occur if the fiscal cliff is not averted; and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) says  Boehner doesn't have a leg to stand on

Fixbits:

Norquist says Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told him in a phone conversation that he regrets calling out Norquist by name. Chambliss's office says the call wasn't an apology.

Americans are paying lower taxes than they did in the 1980s, according to a New York Times report.

The New Yorker's David Remnick says Hillary Clinton has left little doubt that she'll run for president again in 2016.

Outgoing Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) stokes 2016 presidential speculation by noting his "warm regard for the people of Iowa and New Hampshire."

Washington state will allow its citizens to smoke marijuana legally starting Thursday. The Justice Department has offered no guidance for the state, whose voters decriminalized pot on Election Day despite the fact that it remains illegal under federal law.

Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) moves toward a run against Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

Could Sen. Tim Johnson's (D-S.D.) son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, run in his place in 2014?

Former congressman Tom Perriello (D-Va.) confirms his interest in running against Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia Democratic governor primary.

Outgoing Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) compares himself to Abraham Lincoln.

Must-reads:

"A detached Romney tends wounds in seclusion after failed White House bid" -- Philip Rucker, Washington Post

"Republicans Go To Obama School" -- Zeke Miller, BuzzFeed

"The Counties That Cost Romney the Election" -- Albert R. Hunt, Bloomberg

"Mitt Romney's loss creates GOP leadership vacuum" -- Steve Peoples, AP

"Trusted Aide to Obama Faces Test in Budget Showdown" -- Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times

"Billionaire Bloomberg knocks out Joe Baca, adds dynamic to gun politics" -- Dan Morain, Sacramento Bee

"Norquist still calling cadence in GOP ranks" -- Peter Wallsten, Washington Post

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Sean Sullivan | December 2, 2012