Van Hollen: 50-50 chance Congress will avert ‘fiscal cliff’ -- Gazette.Net


With a deadline looming in hours, a deal on the revenue side of the so-called “fiscal cliff” appeared to be close Monday afternoon in the U.S. Senate, but lawmakers remained divided on spending cuts.

Rep. Christopher Van Hollen predicted Monday that there was an even chance an agreement would be reached before midnight New Year’s Eve.

Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told CNN Monday that talks had continued late the previous night to reach a deal.

“I think now there's a better than 50-50 chance that we will avoid the fiscal cliff by midnight tonight," Van Hollen said.

The fiscal cliff — comprising Bush-era tax cuts that expire at midnight and automatic reductions in projected spending as part of the sequestration agreement reached in the 2011 debt ceiling deal that are to begin Wednesday — kept lawmakers working late into the night Sunday trying to reach an agreement.

“Everyone is focused on trying to get the job done,” Van Hollen said. “One big question is whether an agreement put together by the senators on a bipartisan basis could pass the House of Representatives.”

Van Hollen pointed out that House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, could not get members of his own party to sign on to his own plan to bring it to the floor for a vote.

If the $1.2 trillion in automatic reductions in projected spending go into effect, an estimated 12,600 jobs in Maryland will be affected.

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said Democrats already have agreed to $43 billion in domestic spending cuts since 2010, said Mikulski, a Baltimore Democrat.

“Today, here we are on New Year’s Eve doing what we should have done after Labor Day,” said Mikulski, the new chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville said that if a deal is not reached to avert the tax increases the typical family of four in Maryland would see a tax hike of $2,200 a year and the state would lose $200 million in revenue.