Are Democrats willing to go off the fiscal cliff?

Updated
House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama
House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama
Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

What election? Hours after President Obama won his hard-fought bid for re-election, the focus in Washington shifted towards the next big battle.

Speaker of the House John Boehner held a press conference on Wednesday to address the looming fiscal cliff on January 1, when automatic tax rate increases and dramatic cuts to domestic programs and defense will take effect.

The top Republican offered a more conciliatory tone, saying his message was “not one of confrontation but one of conviction” and and suggested all parties look for “common ground where it exists and seize it.” But Boehner’s offering of “new revenue if comes from growth and reform” doesn’t suggest that Republicans in Congress have found “common ground” with Democrats and a triumphant president who campaigned on returning to the Clinton-era tax rates for the top income earners.

The president has already vowed to veto any extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

President Obama and GOP lawmakers have until the end of December to reach an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff. But with all the Bush tax cuts set to expire on January 1, the Democrats appear to have the leverage.

On Wednesday’s edition of The Last Word, Ana Marie Cox of The Guardian predicted Democrats won’t cave this time.

“I don’t think they’re going to chicken out,” she told msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell. “This is a principled stand to make – this is not going off the cliff as some sort of lemmings, this is not like Wylie Coyote spinning his legs. This is getting the Republican Party to try and do the right thing,”

Jonathan Capehart of the The Washington Post, also a guest on the show, agreed Democrats are more than willing to go off the cliff to sort out the spending cuts and tax increases once and for all. “Now that the president has won re-election and that he already has the experience of the debt ceiling fight from last year under his belt, he knows how to fight this fight now,” Capehart said.

Newly re-elected Vice President Joe Biden expressed optimism it won’t even come to that. “We’re really anxious to get moving on, first of all, dealing with the first things first, this fiscal cliff,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I think we can do it.”

Are Democrats willing to go off the fiscal cliff?

Updated