One Month Left

As expected, there was no puff of smoke from the White House signaling a deal on the Bush tax cuts, as lawmakers and the President basically agreed to start negotiations on a possible deal.

“The question is, can we find the common ground that the American people expect us to find?” said Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), who will be the new Speaker of the House in January.

“The American people did not vote for gridlock,” President Obama said from the White House a few minutes later.  “They didn’t vote for unyielding partisanship,” he added, urging action on the Bush tax cuts.

But Mr. Obama then clearly signaled that he could not accept Republican calls to make the current tax rates permanent, just as GOP lamwakers have said they won’t accept White House plans to allow tax cuts to expire for those making higher incomes.

In hopes of changing that, the two sides agreed to start negotiations on a deal, with the White House sending Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and budget chief Jack Lew to the table, while Republicans and Democrats will send one member each from the House and Senate.

The announcement of these negotiations – with possible sessions at Camp David – brought back bad memories of the 1990 budget negotiations between Congress and the first Bush Administration, which went on for weeks at Andrews Air Force Base.

This time around, the two sides only have a few weeks to come up with a deal, as the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year.

While both parties keep talking about how they don’t want a Legislative Train Wreck, and how they want to find common ground, it’s hard to see where that is – other than a temporary extension of the current tax rates for one or two years.

As soon as word came out about these Tax Cut Talks, you could almost feel the air going out of the balloon in the halls of the Capitol, because it would mean that final resolution would not happen this week.

In fact, the rumor floating around is that the House won’t even come into session next week, in order to give these negotiations some time to work.

If they don’t work – then we may well be here until Christmas Eve, which happened last year in the Senate on health care reform legislation.

Democrats on Monday had talked about forcing a vote as soon as this week on a plan to forge ahead with current tax rates for those making under $250,000/year per family and $200,000/year for an individual – but it was unclear last night if that would go forward or not.

Complicating matters is that this is a Lame Duck Congress, and already this week, a number of members have not been in Washington, D.C. for votes.

18 work days until Christmas.