Everybody over the cliff?

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House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Thursday in the Capitol.

House Speaker John Boehner's "major defeat" Thursday night — when he had to pull his "Plan B" to extend Bush-era tax cuts for nearly all American taxpayers because he couldn't get enough support from his fellow Republicans — means negotiations about avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff remain at an impasse.

So now what?

As NPR's Mara Liasson said before Thursday night's surprising news from the House, there already had been talk about going "over the cliff a little bit" — for a few days or so after Jan. 1 — before an ultimate compromise.

Well, that talk continues. CBS News writes that:

"The only way to reach a deal may be to let the nation go over the 'cliff.' When that happens, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts will mean that taxes on nearly all Americans will go up. That fact would seem to make it easier for House Republicans to back a 'fiscal cliff' deal, since they would be voting for a tax cut, not a tax hike."

CBS adds, though, that:

"Going over the 'cliff' could have significant consequences. To be clear, the 'cliff' is actually more of a slope: The $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts are phased in over a decade - it's not the immediate punch to the cut that 'cliff' implies - and there are budgetary maneuvers that can at least somewhat soften the blow of both the tax hikes and spending cuts. But going over the 'cliff' could spook the markets and once again shake world perceptions of the ability of the U.S. government to function effectively. And if a deal is not reached relatively soon after the deadlilne, the $500 billion in tax hikes and $200 billion in spending cuts in the first year will likely start pushing the nation back into recession."

On that point about spooking the markets, Bloomberg News offers this headline:

"U.S. Stock Futures Drop as House Republicans Cancel Vote."

Boehner tried mightily to change minds. "It's not the outcome that I wanted, but that was the will of the House," he said. At a press conference Friday morning, Boehner did his best to spin this as something other than a defeat of his leadership.

"They weren't taking that out on me," he said. "They were dealing with a perception that somebody might accuse them of raising taxes."

He was joined at the press conference by his chief deputy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia — someone who at times has been rumored to have eyes on the speakership. His presence on the stage was a signal that Boehner still has his support.

Boehner said it is now up to the president and Democrats in the Senate to find a way to avoid the fiscal cliff — but then, moments later, he said the only real way out is a bipartisan agreement.

"How we get there, God only knows," he said. "All I'm telling you is that Eric and I and our team here are committed to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol and the White House to address it."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. 

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