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Issue Analysis

"Gutsy Call"-Congress Ponders Punting Fiscal Cliff Deadlines

"Can we just talk about this later?"

Slowly and quietly, the U.S. Congress may be arriving at a consensus on how to avoid falling off the "fiscal cliff" on December 31 - by simply putting off its own deadline for most of the major year-end budget and tax decisions.

That approach would delay the day of reckoning while also allowing more time for compromise in a Congress that has battled for two years over how best to reduce huge budget deficits.

Congress rarely passes up an opportunity to put off until tomorrow what it can do today. Continuing the football analogy, when it comes to many serious issues regarding taxation where spending cuts can no longer be left out of the conversation, our-ahem-representatives run nothing but one punt play after another.

This compromise-in-waiting is the fruit of the last big compromise Congress shoved down our throats achieved for the alleged good of all concerned.

Congress created the hazardous end-of-year deadline in August 2O11 when it agreed to a deficit deal as a way out of a deadlock over raising the U.S. debt ceiling.

Not to worry, fiscal conservatives, there's reassurance from from a Republican who won't even be around next year that it will probably get done.

Moderate Republican Representative Steven LaTourette, who has had close ties to House Speaker John Boehner and is retiring at year's end, said: "I do think there will be a strong push by not only the (House Republican) leadership, but quite frankly the majority of Republicans, to do the big Easter (March 31)."

Of course, "compromise" in the modern Washington context refers to Republicans caving to most, if not all, of the Democrats' demands on an issue. This can sometimes happen when the Democrats are only making those demands through their advocates in the press, as happened during the laughably referred to "showdown" during the last debt ceiling debate.

Hey, why talk about looming policy consequences during a presidential election year, right?

Delaying this particular conversation now provides cover for another uncomfortable but necessary examination of taxes on the near horizon.

As Taxmageddon 2013 looms against the back drop of Election 2012 one thing is for certain: upper-income filers will take a hit in 2013 even if no new taxes are imposed, as will owners of some small businesses.

The "avoid the painful discussion today and hope it gets better tomorrow" approach has been employed for far too long by lawmakers with exactly zero successes to show for it.

One important thing about the "day of reckoning" that Congress never seems to grasp: it always shows up whether you want it to or not.