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Rep. Walden headed back to D.C.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Hood River will cut short his holiday vacation this morning to fly to Washington, D.C.

Like other Republican House members, he has been summoned to convene in the chambers at 6:30 p.m. today to consider ways to prevent the nation from going over the so-called fiscal cliff.

"I'm hopeful we will resolve this, but the closer you get to the cliff, the more likely we will go over it," said Walden, who represents the 2nd Congressional District that includes all of Eastern Oregon, Jackson County and a portion of Josephine County.

"It's a pretty slippery slope when you get close to it," he said.

New Year's Day is the self-imposed deadline set in place last year by Congress to force a deal on government expenditures and revenues.

As it stands, all George W. Bush-era tax cuts would expire Tuesday, and $109 billion in automatic spending cuts would take effect Wednesday. It would also result in most Americans paying about $2,000 more in federal taxes next year while potentially pushing the nation back into a recession, according to many economists.

Republicans and Democrats have sparred over alternatives to avoid going over the fiscal cliff. The Democratic Party-led Senate approved legislation this past summer, which President Barack Obama supported, to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and families making less than $250,000. The Republican-led House has passed legislation to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts.

Last week, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, proposed a plan to allow tax rates to rise on million-dollar-plus incomes, but there was no vote on the measure after it became apparent it would not pass muster with the House GOP.

Both sides have faulted the other for the stalled negotiations that led to the stalemate.

Walden, 55, was recently elected chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, making his the fifth-most powerful seat in that body. He said blaming the other side wasn't solving the problem.

"I don't know if it is helpful to point fingers at anyone," he said. "Right now, I'm just hopeful we can find a way through this."

He declined to be nailed down to a specific tax approach that he would support.

"My principle is that I'll continue to work for as much tax relief for as many Americans as we can get," he said. "I'm trying not to lock into any rate.

"We have enormous problems in this country," he added. "We need to get together and solve them. Other presidents and Congresses have gotten together and worked things out."

He cited President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, and Speaker of the House Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, a Democrat, for working together in the 1980s to reach an agreement on tax codes.

"And Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich even found common ground," he said of the former president and House speaker.

Walden stressed that he would prefer to see an agreement reached to avoid the automatic tax increases and spending cuts in the new year.

"But, if we do go over the fiscal cliff, the sun will come up, and average Americans will still go to work and take their kids to school," he said. "The world will not end. But going over the cliff is not what you want to do.

"Congress will eventually find something they agree on and can make it retroactive," he concluded. "The key is to get it done and move on."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

Rep. Walden headed back to D.C.