Let's remember that this so-called "fiscal cliff" was one of the Republicans' own making. For two years now, they have refused to deal with the Democrats about the fact that the Bush tax cuts expire on January 1st. President Obama made his intentions clear during the election - they should only be extended for incomes under $250,000. And he won.
In addition, for the first time in our history, the Republicans used the debt ceiling as hostage in an attempt to end Social Security and Medicare as we know them. That failed and we ended up with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts (half to domestic programs and half to defense) set to begin on January 1st.
Speaker Boehner attempted to negotiate a deal with President Obama on all this and eventually walked away from the table - learning that he had no control over the members of his own caucus. So he threw up his hands and said, "Its up to the Senate to do something."
President Obama and Sen. Majority Leader Reid were more than happy to take him up on that. Here's how Reid set it up.
At President Obama’s request, I am readying a bill for a vote by Monday that will prevent a tax hike on middle-class families making up to $250,000, and that will include the additional, critical provisions outlined by President Obama. In the next twenty-four hours, I look forward to hearing any good-faith proposals Senator McConnell has for altering this bill.”By passing the responsibility to the Senate, Boehner has handed things off to the chamber where Democrats control what comes to the floor. If McConnell doesn't come up with something Reid agrees with, what will be presented is the President's smaller package including an extension of the tax cuts only on incomes under $250,000 and things like an extension of unemployment insurance.
That's test one for McConnell. Test two is whether or not he will filibuster said bill. If he does, he not only takes the blame for falling off the cliff, he is basically ASKING for filibuster reform in the next Congress. If he doesn't, he inspires the ire of the tea bagger wing of his party.
If a bill gets through the Senate, the next test is for Boehner. Either he brings it to the floor to see if a bipartisan group of Representatives pass it - or he holds it up and becomes responsible for falling off the cliff. If he allows the bill to pass, he too will face the wrath of the tea baggers.
With all the world watching, the fiscal cliff has now become a Republican cliff. Either these two men accept President Obama's outstretched hand, or they're the one's going off the cliff into oblivion.