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Parties Maneuver for Edge in Fiscal Battle

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Patty Murray said Monday that she would continue the fiscal debate into 2013 “rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle-class families under the bus.”

Republicans and Democrats are jockeying for leverage in their quest to win this fall’s battle over the nation’s “fiscal cliff,” with Republicans trying to get as much as possible done before the elections as a way to diminish Democrats’ negotiating power in the lame-duck session.

Democrats on Monday issued an ultimatum on a taxes, saying they are prepared to let $1.2 trillion in harsh automatic spending cuts go into effect and let tax cuts expire to force Republicans to agree to raise taxes on the wealthy.

But House Republicans hope to take at least one of those issues off the table this week: The House will vote on a measure to make the president prepare a report about the effect of the sequester. Republicans will hammer President Barack Obama for using pending defense spending cuts, which make up half of the sequester, as leverage on taxes.

Additionally, South Carolina Republican Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham have asked Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to try to eliminate another possible advantage for Democrats after the elections — the funding of the government for the next year. In a letter to Boehner on Friday, the two asked him to bring up a stopgap spending bill that will fund the government at least through February, to prevent Democrats from playing political games, they said.

This week, House Republicans have scheduled the Sequestration Transparency Act for the floor Wednesday, followed by the Defense appropriations bill. A House Armed Services Committee hearing will also address sequestration that day.

The GOP will seek to drive its message in key battleground states that have significant military facilities such as Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, which are important to the presidential race.

But without the cooperation of Senate Democrats, neither a stopgap spending bill nor a sequester rollback are likely to see action until at least November.

Democrats have made no secret of trying to use the number of major items with a Jan. 1 deadline, including the start of the sequester and the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as a way to achieve their policy goals on taxes.

“If Republicans won’t work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal,” Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) said in a Monday speech. “So if we can’t get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle-class families under the bus. And I think my party, and the American people, will support that.”

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