Michael Barone

Now the question of whether we avoid the fiscal cliff -- tax rate increases, sequestration, the full imposition of the Alternative Minimum Tax -- is up to the Democrats. Specifically, the Senate Democrats.

Boehner's rollout of Plan B last Monday reflected his judgment that negotiation with Obama was futile and that the only way forward was through regular order in Congress.

"The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the Jan. 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation's crippling debt," he said in his terse statement after pulling Plan B off the floor of the House. "The Senate must now act."

You can see this as an attempt to influence public opinion. Current polling shows that voters say they will blame Republicans more than Democrats if we go over the fiscal cliff.

But people are not always good predictors of their future opinions. The failure of the grand bargain negotiations in summer 2011 was followed by downturns in opinion toward both Obama and Republicans.

Senate Democrats have been avoiding tough votes on fiscal issues for some time. They haven't passed a budget resolution for three years, though the budget act requires them to do so.

That likely reflects a reluctance to make their policies clear to the public and, perhaps, differences in their caucus making it as hard for them to muster a majority as it was for Boehner Thursday night.

Are we going over the cliff? Looks like it to me.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM