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JOSHUA GREEN

Zombie Congress

If Rep. Jim Cooper is right, fiscal negotiations are in danger. Big danger.

Representative Jim Cooper, the Tennessee Democrat, worries that zombies will destroy Washington come December. He’s identified 55 of them, and feels certain that more will be lurching around after the November election. They’ll be easy to spot, since they’ll all wear suits and gather at the Capitol. “After November 6, we’ll have a zombie Congress,” he explains. “We’ll have the 55 members who have already announced they’re retiring or seeking a different office, and we’ll have everybody who loses reelection. So they’ll literally be the living dead, except they’ll be back in Washington and have voting cards.”

What concerns Cooper is that this zombie Congress will be called upon to solve a looming fiscal crisis set to strike on Jan. 1, when two huge changes are due to take place. Unless Congress acts, the Bush tax cuts that President Obama extended in 2010 will expire. And $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to military and domestic spending — the “budget sequester” agreed to under last summer’s deal to raise the debt ceiling — will also kick in. All told, this will cause $7.5 trillion in tax hikes and spending cuts, enough to halt the fragile recovery and possibly plunge the economy back into recession. Hill staffers have dubbed this scenario “Taxmaggedon.”

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