Tamara Keith

In 10 days, virtually all Americans will be hit with a tax increase and deep government spending cuts will follow shortly behind. That is, unless Congress and President Obama can find a way to avert the "fiscal cliff."

It's not looking very promising at the moment. On Thursday night, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pulled the plug on a measure he was calling his "Plan B" and sent his members home for Christmas.

House Speaker John Boehner was dealt a major defeat Thursday night. After spending most of the week trying to round up votes for his "Plan B" to extend tax cuts for virtually everyone, he pulled the measure without a vote and sent the House home for Christmas. The clock keeps ticking toward the end of the year, when automatic tax increases and spending cuts are set to hit.

Early Thursday, Boehner expressed confidence not only that his bill would pass but that the Democratic-controlled Senate would feel so much pressure, it would be forced to consider it, too.

House Republicans are under a lot of pressure.

House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team are urging them to support his "Plan B" to avoid the automatic tax hikes of the "fiscal cliff." But they're also facing pressure from outside groups that could mount primary challenges against them if they do.

Boehner argues his plan — which would allow the Bush-era tax cuts to stay in place for income under $1 million a year — isn't a tax increase. But a number of conservative groups have come to a very different conclusion.

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Politicians, they love to stay on message, don't they? Even when there's not much to spin, they'll spin.

Lines of communication remain open in an effort to avert the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff," according to the White House and House Speaker John Boehner.

If no deal is reached between now and the end of the year, would the consequences be that drastic?

To answer that question, let's imagine it's January and the nation has gone off the "fiscal cliff." You don't really feel any different and things don't look different, either. That's because, according to former congressional budget staffer Stan Collender, the cliff isn't really a cliff.

The Internet has not been kind to House Speaker John Boehner in recent days. On Twitter, there are some new, not-so-subtle hashtags going around: #boehnermustgo, #fireboehner and #purgeboehner.

As Democratic and Republican leaders try to work out a deal to avoid the automatic spending cuts and tax increases of the fiscal cliff, one area they're zeroing in on is investment income.

Raising the rates on capital gains and dividends, even just for the wealthy, would bring in $240 billion over the next decade. That makes them an easy place to look for new revenue.

As the White House and Congress debate how to steer clear of the fiscal cliff, one obstacle is the president's insistence that the wealthy should pay more in taxes. And one way that could happen is through changing the rules for dividends and capital gains.

If you own a share of stock in a company today, when the company pays out a dividend, the most you're taxed is 15 percent. And if you decide to sell the stock and cash out, you'd also pay 15 percent on your profits — the capital gains.

A grand bargain, a compromise to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, could all come down to one word: revenue. It's now widely agreed that steering away from the cliff — the combination of spending cuts and tax increases set to hit at the start of the year — will require some combination of revenue increases and spending cuts. The central sticking point could well be whether President Obama and Congress can agree on the definition of revenue.

At the moment, the casual observer could easily get the sense that the president and Republicans in Congress are talking past each other.

Virtually everyone agrees that allowing the nation to fall off the fiscal cliff would be a bad thing.

Government programs would be cut, taxes would rise significantly on a majority of Americans, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, the economy would fall back into recession.

But get this: Even if all of those things happen, there would still be a budget deficit.

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