- Congress has narrowly averted the consequences of the fiscal cliff on Tuesday night. But in the months-long ordeal that took place, it revealed some serious challenges in Washington. Here's a closer look at what we've learned.
Obama wants to deal
- What happened: As early as 2007, Barack Obama argued that the Bush-era tax cuts should be repealed for couples making above $250,000 a year. In 2010, he agreed to a two-year extension. The final deal approved Tuesday night repealed tax cuts for those making $450,000 a year.
- What it means: The president wants a deal. Obama could have held to the $250,000 threshold, letting Republicans vote against him and take the blame, but he traded it because he wanted a compromise.
Boehner is a weak speaker
- What happened: Speaker John Boehner walked away from negotiations with the White House, announced his Plan B to repeal tax cuts for those making more than $1 million a year, then canceled a vote when it became clear it couldn't pass either. A majority of Republicans, including Boehner's top lieutenants, voted against the final deal.
Topic A is spending
- What happened: The final deal to avoid the consequences of the fiscal cliff focused entirely on tax rates, with the spending cuts delayed by two months. It also does not address the debt ceiling, which must be raised again early this year. The fight over the debt ceiling was what led to the fiscal cliff in the first place.
- What it means: Gun control? Immigration? Foreign policy? Those are all sideshows. The big fight in the next Congress will continue to be how much the government should spend.
Public opinion does not matter
- What happened: Polls consistently showed more Americans thought that either some or all of the Bush tax cuts should expire. Congress' approval rating remains stuck at a dismal 18 percent. A recent poll found that 77 percent of Americans think Washington politics are causing serious harm to the country.
- What it means: Mandates don't matter. There was a lot of talk after the election about whether Obama or House Republicans had a mandate, but ultimately public opinion is not able to budge the gridlock.
It's going to be an interesting year
- What happened: President Obama wants a deal. The leader of the House Republicans is unable to pass one. Congress remains fixed on debating spending, the one issue where the two parties are the farthest apart. And public opinion is not enough to break the stalemate. Oh, and Boehner said something pretty raw to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
- What it means: Get ready for a wild ride.