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Private Briefingwith WILLIAM PATALON III, Executive Editor
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With the United States poised to topple over a recession-inducing fiscal cliff in January 2013, you'd think Congress would be frantically working on a solution.
After all, that's what we elected them to do.
The fiscal cliff is political shorthand for the combination of spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to hit Jan. 1, 2013. It's the result of the expiration of the President Bush-era tax cuts combined with $1.2 trillion in automatic reductions in federal spending made last summer as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling.
But rather than focus on figuring out how to avoid the fiscal cliff, Congress members are focused on figuring out how quickly they can get out of Washington for their next recess.
"Everyone wants to get out of town - fast," a top Senate aide told Reuters.
That would be fine if lawmakers were just finishing a grueling summer session, but they just returned from a five-week recess. The current session will last just two weeks, and then Congress departs for another recess, possibly as long as seven weeks.
And what lawmakers have placed on the agenda for their abbreviated session hardly compares to the flashing-red-lights, sirens-blaring crisis the United States faces with the fiscal cliff.
Instead Republicans and Democrats will spend much of their limited time voting on bills and holding hearings designed to score political points they can use in their re-election campaigns.
The Democrat-controlled Senate plans to vote on jobs bills they know the House Republicans will reject; the GOP-controlled House plans to repeal Obamacare for the umpteenth time, which obviously will get nowhere in the Senate.
"Democrats appear ready to ride out the rest of the year spinning tall tales that the economy is doing fine while doing virtually nothing about the problems we face as a nation," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, told Politico.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, called the GOP moves an "example of Republicans wasting time that should be spent on finding solutions to the country's problems. We're up to zero votes on Obama's jobs bills and more than 30 votes to repeal Obamacare," he told Politico.
Meanwhile, America edges closer to the fiscal cliff with each passing day. Here's what that could mean for you.
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