Senator: Congress can deal with 'fiscal cliff'

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said on Sunday that while he is confident Congress can reach a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” it will likely take several months to hammer out the details.

“If President Obama is re-elected, I believe we can avoid the fiscal cliff,” Durbin said during an appearance on Bloomberg’s new Capitol Gains Sunday show.

However, Durbin said he believed “only the broadest outlines” of a deal can be achieved when Congress returns for a lame-duck session following the November election.

Durbin’s optimism that a deal can be achieved is in contrast to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who said this past week that he was not confident lawmakers will reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, when deep cuts to defense and domestic programs go into effect and the Bush-era tax cuts expire Jan. 1.

Durbin noted that there has been more bipartisanship in the Senate and that Boehner faces a tougher situation in the House. At the same time, he said, it could take up to six months for lawmakers to figure out the details on what changes would be required to the tax code and entitlement programs.

“It can’t be done in a matter of days or weeks,” Durbin said. But, he added, “We need to give assurances to those who are skeptical, and they have a right to be skeptical, that we’re serious about it.”

When asked about criticism that President Obama has not shown enough leadership on the issue, Durbin said any plan released by the White House before the election would be assailed as a campaign ploy. In such a highly charged environment, “nothing serious is going to happen before the election,” Durbin said.
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