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Poll: If government careens off fiscal cliff, GOP to shoulder blame

 

If the U.S. government ends up careening off the "fiscal cliff," Republicans in Congress stand to shoulder most of the blame, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

A majority of Americans said in a new, post-election poll that they do not expect President Barack Obama and members of Congress to reach an agreement to avoid the effects of the fiscal cliff, the combination of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect at the beginning of the year.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., explains whether a compromise will be reached between Democrats and Republicans.

 

Fifty-three percent of Americans said Republicans in Congress would be more to blame in that instance, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in the days following the election. Twenty-nine percent said that Obama would be more to blame, while 10 percent said both the president and Republicans would share blame.

Those kinds of numbers help set the political landscape heading into the impending fight to resolve the long-running fiscal standoff, which features an emboldened Obama fresh off a re-election victory and a Republican Party looking to regain its footing in Washington after losing seats in the House and Senate in addition to Mitt Romney's White House loss.

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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill returned to work on Tuesday to begin sorting out these issues and beginning to work on some internal affairs, including choosing their own leadership teams for the next two years.

But just a few weeks separate the U.S. from the onset of the fiscal cliff, as the 2001 Bush tax cuts and the 2010 payroll tax cut are set to expire at the end of this calendar year. On top of that, the automatic spending cuts -- which fall heavily on the defense budget -- will also take place beginning in January unless Congress acts first.

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Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks at a press conference as Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., listen on Capitol Hill Sept. 20, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans said in the Pew poll that they would expect the impact of the fiscal cliff to be major, and 70 percent said they expect the fallout from the fiscal cliff to be mostly negative.

The president hosted labor leaders at the White House on Tuesday morning in anticipation of the upcoming negotiations, and Obama will host business leaders on Wednesday. Leaders in Congress from both parties head to the White House for talks on Friday.

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Both Obama and Republicans in Congress have begun laying out parameters for those negotiations, and White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated on Tuesday afternoon that the president would not sign any law extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Obama has instead called on Congress to extend all tax rates except for those in the top income bracket.

(Republicans have called for broader talks that link an overhaul in the tax code to entitlement program reforms.)

The Pew poll was conducted Nov. 8-11 and has a 3.7 percent margin of error.