Fiscal Cliff Notes
Panetta Downplays Threat of Defense Furloughs
Monday, December 24, 2012 - 11:08am
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Pentagon officials are resigned to $50 billion of across the  board  defense budget cuts kicking in beginning next month under sequestration, but they are now downplaying the immediate impact of the cuts after previously warning they would undermine national security.
 
Analysts expect that the cuts could be phased in more gradually than originally thought, eliminating the need for furloughs and layoffs at the start of the new year. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has frequently warned  of the catastrophic consequences of the cuts, toned down his remarks to Pentagon employees last week, assuring them that there would be no  layoffs or furloughs, at least not right away.

“These cuts, while significant and harmful to our collective mission as an agency, would not necessarily require immediate reductions in spending,” he wrote. But, he added: “Should we have to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions in the future.”  -  Read more at The New York Times

A DAIRY "CLIFF" ?  This could be the last Christmas Santa gets milk with his cookies. If Congress doesn't address the farm bill before the end of the year, the price of milk will rise to as much as $7 per gallon, according to the Department of Agriculture. With lawmakers' focus on fiscal cliff talks, it's likely that nothing will be done to address the farm bill before the end of the year,   Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told CNN's Candy Crowley. If no legislative action is taken, the dairy subsidy will expire and government policy will revert  to a 1949 statute, meaning the government  will have to buy milk at double the current price, making milk more expensive for everyone.   -  Read more at The Raw Story

TEA PARTY BOWS OUT OF FISCAL FIGHT    While hundreds of groups across the country have attempted to influence budget talks as the deadline to avoid the fiscal cliff nears, the tea party, a group devoted almost  entirely to that  issue has remained unusually silent.

The  Tea Party’s group's absence in the fiscal fight isn't for lack of interest, however. According to The Washington Post, the tea party has kept a low profile  been deliberately invisible in its lobbying efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff  because members  they no longer  believe they have diminished  influence  at on the federal level, and instead are focusing their energy on state governments at the state level.

“We’re sitting back’’ on the fiscal cliff, Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest tea party group told the Washington   Post. Republicans in Congress “have proven they’re not going to listen to us,’’ adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner  of Ohio (R-Ohio) is a “cave man” for his willingness to consider tax increases. -  Read more at The Washington Post

For more news on the approaching fiscal cliff, follow us on Twitter @Fiscalcliffnote

Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.