North Country Congressman Bill Owens says he's frustrated by the ongoing negotiations to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
The Democrat from Plattsburgh told the Enterprise this week that he hasn't seen much progress in talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. He said they haven't been able to reach a consensus on how to avoid deep spending cuts and tax hikes that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013, if lawmakers can't strike a deal before then.
"It's hard to tell whether this is posturing or whether there is serious conversation going on," Owens said. "We do hear other rumors that there are other conversations happening, where they're putting together a package, but the details of that package are sparse, if existing at all.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens
(Enterprise file photo)
"I don't want to speculate as to where this is going."
Owens has steadfastly supported letting the Bush tax cuts expire for households making more than $250,000 or $500,000 annually. He has also stated support for cutting $100 billion in federal spending by doing away with redundant federal programs.
As of Friday, some Senate Republicans were calling upon their colleagues in the House to back down from their opposition to letting tax cuts expire for households bringing in more than $250,000. The Associated Press reported Friday that the Obama administration and Boehner may narrow their focus and begin discussing a deal that would "extend current tax rates for most Americans, raise rates for top earners and leave other, vexing issues for the new year."
Owens said rank-and-file House members haven't had much say in the fiscal cliff talks. He said that's been "extremely frustrating.
"And given the way in which the parties are conducting themselves, it's even more frustrating," Owens said. "And my view is, we're at the point in time when they should be sitting in a room and not coming out of the room until they've got a deal."
That didn't appear likely on Friday, as the AP reported that Boehner planned to return to Ohio for the weekend.
Meanwhile, the subject of fiscal cliff negotiations appeared to frustrate U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Asked for an update, Schumer gave short replies.
"We're hopeful both sides can come together," he said. "Democrats say bring in revenues, Republicans say cuts. There's an obvious compromise where some of each is done, and we're trying to work toward that."
Schumer did say that Social Security reform should be left out of the equation.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.