Two Wisconsin lawmakers could play pivotal role in striking “fiscal cliff” deal

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MADISON -- As President Barack Obama returns to Washington, D.C. after an Election Day victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, President Obama will have little time to celebrate his victory. The so-called "fiscal cliff" looms as a nightmare scenario of tax increases and spending cuts that could have a catastrophic effect on the nation's economy -- and Wisconsin lawmakers could play a central role in striking a deal.

Wisconsin has two prominent members of Congress poised to play a role in negotiations over the "fiscal cliff." 

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Congresswoman Gwen Moore are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but may help to find common ground.

After losing as the VP contender Tuesday, Ryan is returning to his Congressional seat and to his spot as the powerful chairman of the House Budget Committee. 

In the meantime, House Speaker John Boehner is leading the negotiations and talking compromise. 

"Let's challenge ourselves to find the common ground that has eluded us. Let's rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing for our country in a bipartisan way," Boehner said.

The term "fiscal cliff" was first used by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, referring to a situation where Congress can't come up with a debt reduction deal, triggering tax increases and automatic spending cuts -- a nightmare scenario that both parties want to avoid.

"It was a Faustian plan put together betting on the members of Congress coming up with a deal and they weren't able to do it," Moore said.

Lawmakers have until the end of the year to strike a deal. Otherwise, on January 1st, the Bush tax cuts expire and the average household would see a $3,500 tax increase, and average middle class families would see a $2,000 tax increase. The spending cuts would trim $1 trillion from federal departments over nine years -- with half coming from the defense budget.

No cuts would be made to social security, veterans' benefits, Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

However, independent estimates indicate the U.S. economy would lose one million jobs over two years if the government goes off the cliff.

President Obama was clear in the campaign about his plan to extend tax cuts for everybody except the top one percent of earners -- those making more than $250,000 a year.

Moore said the election showed voters want to see cuts and tax increases on the wealthiest. 

"Fifty-eight percent -- that includes people who voted for Mitt Romney -- would like to see the Bush-era tax cuts be obliterated and abolished, so there is a mandate to get more revenue into the country," Moore said.