Congress must also deal with the "sequester," about $100 billion in ill-targeted and unwise spending cuts, including to the Pentagon, that will phase in beginning in January. Though destructive measures such as furloughs and layoffs could be put off for a time, if the cuts were allowed to kick in, they would still have immediate bite. Republicans might resist canceling or delaying the sequester without offsetting spending cuts elsewhere. But preventing the across-the-board reductions is nevertheless critical.
It is pathetic that political leaders have not already agreed to avoid the worst effects of the fiscal cliff. But with McConnell and Reid talking, with the House returning this weekend and with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promising that his chamber will consider any bill the Senate sends it, there is still time. Obama said that if there is no agreement, he would demand an up-or-down vote on his own proposal by both houses. That should be a last resort; better for Democrats to seek a bipartisan deal.