Why ‘fiscal cliffhanger’ makes an ideal headline

Tease the day: Nobody can resist a little congressional drama

<p>The moon rises behind the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington as Congress works into the late evening, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 to resolve the stalemate over the pending &#8220;fiscal cliff.&#8221; (AP Photo/J. David Ake)</p>

The moon rises behind the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington as Congress works into the late evening, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 to resolve the stalemate over the pending “fiscal cliff.” (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

AP/J. David Ake

“Fiscal cliffhanger” is too tempting a headline to discard. Newspapers everywhere are pouncing on the phrase this morning because they can and, really, nobody in the world loves to hate—or hates to love, perhaps—anything more than a cliffhanger. Just ask anyone who’s watched Sherlock‘s second season and are utterly frustrated at its conclusion (that was me, last week). Truly, nobody can resist a cliffhanger.

Negotiations on the fiscal cliff turned a corner yesterday, sources say, because vice-president Joe Biden and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, the same men who negotiated a medium-term fix to 2011’s debt ceiling crisis, were at a table together. Will they strike a deal before it’s too late? There’s an argument to be made, and we’ve made it before here, that the answer to that question isn’t as important as it seems. Reuters spoke to that perspective yesterday. Even if there’s no deal before midnight tonight, the wire service reported, “it would take some time for the U.S. economy to slide into recession.” Congress would have “plenty of chances” to “make amends by reversing some of the effects” of resulting tax hikes and spending cuts.

Phew? Not exactly. Reuters says investors “should be scared if a few weeks later, Washington fails to reach a deal to increase the nation’s debt ceiling because that raises the threat of a default, another credit downgrade and a panic in the financial markets.” U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has already said the feds will hit the debt ceiling at the end of this year, and his department will enact emergency measures to stave off a crisis. CNN reports that those measures will buy lawmakers $200 billion of time—about two months—to come to a deal. Look for another cliffhanger sometime in February or March, then.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with prospective Canadian military trainers heading to Mali. The National Post fronts cartoonist Gary Clement’s 2012 year in review. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with Ontario schools’ support staff agreeing to a tentative agreement at the last minute with the province. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the latest in aboriginal protests across Canada, including a blockade of VIA tracks in Ontario. iPolitics fronts the potential Mali mission. CBC.ca leads with the bus crash in Oregon that killed nine Canadians. National Newswatch showcases former cabinet minister Monte Solberg’s column in the Winnipeg Sun that teases next year’s political landscape.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Rigs. The Globe reports that the number of active drilling rigs in North America‘s energy sector is lower than at this time last year, and the drop is expected to continue into 2013.2. Caffeine. Health Canada is implementing new regulations next month that will cap the amount of caffeine in energy drinks. The drinks are no longer classified as “natural health products.”
3. Hacker. Two federal government computers were hacked last May, and it took several days for anyone to notice. Those incidents were among several cyber-attacks in 2012.4. Rent caps. Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced in Halifax that some new members of the military would have rent increases capped at 2.21 per cent in 2013-14.