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Analysis: Congress Returns From Recess, Tackles Fiscal Cliff, Spending Cuts

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Congress returns from a five-week recess today, in this home stretch before the November elections, and several items on the agenda will have significant impacts on our area. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks about some of the issues.

Hawkings on what lawmakers will be taking up as they return this week: "The big item later in the week is the legislation known as the Stop Gap Spending Bill. This is important to our area because it essentially means there's going to be no threat of a government shutdown. There's going to be no disruption in government services. It's pretty much guaranteed what Republicans and Democrats have decided in a rare bit of bi-partisan agreement is to kick the can down the road for a full 6 months."

On how confident lawmakers are about being able to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff (a combination of tax cuts set to expire and spending cuts set to go into effect in January) before the end of the year: "The reason they're doing what I just described — moving the annual spending bill into next year — is essentially to make room on the calendar for the lame duck session for more of this fiscal cliff deliberation. The widespread expectation is with one exception... they're going to move the other aspect of the fiscal cliff into the new year, as well. The one big exception being the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts... whether or not President Obama is reelected, the big question will be whether to allow the tax cuts for the richest Americans to expire."

On Romney's statement on NBC's Meet the Press about Congressional Republicans' mistake in agreeing to a debt-reduction deal: "There's a little bit of an annoyance... These across-the-board cuts are also a part of the fiscal cliff. And just to remind people that if there's no alternative deal by the end of the year, then these across the board cuts kick in. They're particularly deep in the eyes of defense."

Listen to the full analysis here.

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