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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid.
A new Gallup poll shows that the number of Americans who feel big government is the biggest threat to the country's future dwarfs those who fear big business. When asked to choose between big government, big business or big labor, 64 percent say they are wary of the federal government – which is just short of a record high, while just 26 percent name big business – oil, banking and other corporations. That could be read as Tea Party thinking vs. Occupy Wall Street. So what does this mean for the American sentiment?
Despite months of activity, mountains of press and the support of everyone from labor unions to political organizations, has the Occupy movement succeeded in turning the zeitgeist against corporate power? Could the Tea Party sentiment tip the scales in next year's election?
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats seem on the verge of backing down on key points in their fight to extend the payroll tax holiday – including paying for it with a surcharge on millionaires, which the GOP staunchly opposes. If the tax cut expires on Dec. 31 as scheduled, 160 million American workers will average an additional $1,000 a year in Social Security taxes. Republicans instead are pushing for other cuts: reduced unemployment benefits and a freeze on federal employees' pay.
In addition, the bill includes a number of GOP-favored provisions: increased Medicare premiums for seniors, a drug test requirement for unemployment benefits and a roll-back on clean air standards for boilers. Getting the payroll tax cut signed in time for Friday's deadline may hinge on a major cave-in by Dems on allowing the construction permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. If the two sides can't break the gridlock, government could be headed for another shutdown this weekend.
Will the senators make it home for the holidays? Can Democratic lawmakers risk giving in on the pipeline to gain another year of tax holiday? What could these concessions say about the balance of power in Congress?
Lisa Mascaro, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer in the DC bureau covering Congress, Politics
Sam Goldfarb, Reporter, CQ Roll Call
Raphael Sonenshein, Professor of Political Science, California State University, Fullerton; new position in February 2012: Executive Director of the Pat Brown Institute, California State University, Los Angeles