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Voters Will Likely Resolve Fiscal Cliff

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Jim DeMint isn't alone in acknowledging the reality that President Barack Obama will be able to force through a tax increase.

And then there's the simple math - the vast majority of the cliff comes from tax cuts and defense spending that are bigger Republican priorities than Democratic ones. It's a trigger Democrats, such as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Patty Murray (Wash.), have made clear they are ready and willing to pull.

But the House has largely remained implacable in public so far.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Friday that he still would not support any tax hikes if Obama wins.

"No. ... Our goal is to have tax reform and entitlement reform, and we all know that these are going to probably have to travel on parallel paths. But it's important for our country to fix our debt problem and have a tax code that's competitive in a worldwide economy," he said.

However, he also expressed a desire to avoid the "ugly" sequester.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a deputy whip and senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, vowed that Republicans would not raise taxes. The current rates are set to expire if nothing is done, leaving the GOP seemingly little leverage in the fight. But Brady said the impact of the cliff on the economy would be the leverage against Democrats.

"I think the economy is the major leverage. It's still going to be struggling in a major way," Brady said.

Brady conceded the political winds would be against the GOP, saying "It's true that it will be perceived as a referendum on higher taxes. But I think if the public retains Republicans in the House, it's also a clear sign they don't want to see taxes go up. Because we're running on that same issue back home as well."

He envisioned the two parties striking a deal to bring in increased revenue without raising rates.

"I think perhaps a common ground is that if the president wants to talk about new revenues from increased growth, energy development, or better tax code, there's common ground there," he said.

Still, there is some acknowledgement of the likelihood that the GOP will have to cave to Obama on the House side. Budget Committee member Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told the Washington Post last week that "if the president wins re-election, taxes are going up," adding, "There's not a lot we can do about that."

There's also the question of what would happen if Obama is defeated. Obama has so far vowed not to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy under any scenario, but the pressure for at least some sort of extension could be enormous if Romney wins and Republicans dig in, lest his last few weeks in office see the biggest tax increase in history alongside layoff notices going out across the country in response to the sequester. Republicans would take over, their first order of business would be fixing the resulting mess, and Democrats would be stuck playing defense.

Some in the GOP wonder whether Obama would be willing to sign on to a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, as Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have proposed - similar to what he did in 2010 - alongside other items Obama would want on the way out the door.

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