Today in ‘fiscal cliff’: The latest sign that a deal is on the horizon

December 10, 2012

Perhaps the best sign Monday that a "fiscal cliff" deal is impending is that Democrats have shifted to talking about other changes that are part a big grand bargain — both small-ball provisions and longer-term shifts that go beyond the Bush tax cuts and entitlement cuts that have so far dominated the public debate.

Elizabeth Warren
Sen-elect Elizabeth Warren. (Associated Press)

A group of 17 Democratic senators (and senators-elect) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid requesting that a fiscal cliff deal also delay a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that's scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, according to The Wall Street Journal. "As we work together to develop a long-term solution to help move our economy forward, reduce our debt and reform our tax code, we urge you to support delaying enactment of this provision in a fiscally responsible manner,” the letter said, according to the Journal. "The medical device industry has received little guidance about how to comply with the tax–causing significant uncertainty and confusion for businesses."

It's hardly the first time that Democrats from states with a big stake in the medical device industry have voiced their opposition for the tax, which is part of Obama's health-care reform law. (The signatories of the letter include Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Sen-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)). But the move seems to suggest that legislators are rushing to push smaller provisions into the big deal that appears to be taking shape on the Bush tax cuts.

In fact, some Democrats are feeling so bullish that they are already jumping ahead to what they anticipate will happen in part two of a fiscal cliff deal – not the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire but the broader reforms that they expect to happen later next year, as part of the big fiscal cliff package. At a lunchtime event Monday, "Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said that raising rates now could pave the way for a tax-reform process that could broaden the tax base enough to then reduce rates," Politico reports

Aside from these sideline discussions on the fiscal cliff, there's largely been radio silence from both President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) since their conversation Sunday. It's a notable departure from the heated rhetoric coming from both sides. And some think that's yet another sign that a breakthrough is about to happen.

Cliff notes:

— A Politico/GWU battleground poll shows that voters want to raise taxes on the rich.

DIY deficit-reduction!

— The five keys to a fiscal cliff deal.

— The different ways that Obama could get to $1.6 trillion in tax revenue.

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Brad Plumer | December 10, 2012