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Rank and File Waiting For White Smoke

Lawmakers not on the front line of the fiscal cliff negotiations seem to be having several reactions to the negotiations: Pretend to work, look out for smoke and save Christmas.

Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, explained that at this point, there’s not much for those of us not named President Barack Obama or Speaker John A. Boehner to do.

“We have engaged in some charades over the last 18 years where we all, like, pretend to be working in our offices,” he said about the rank-and-file members. “[B]ut we’re not doing anything to get this done because there’s nothing we can do.”

HOH is going to miss LaTourette, who is retiring. We appreciate that he’s always willing to give a relatively unvarnished view of reality — or at least tell us when he’s about to varnish it.

LaTourette likens the cliff negotiations to the pope’s appointment.

“And when they signal — sort of like the pope being elected. You know, when the white smoke comes out of the Capitol, then we can come back and execute the deal,” he says.

On the other hand, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, who is also retiring, is less laid-back about the timeline.

“[The fiscal cliff negotiators] need to provide and create more urgency to the circumstances, because this is the Christmas season, and [the fiscal cliff] puts people at a high level of anxiety and uncertainty,” she says, sounding a little panicky. “I think people need far less of that, frankly.”

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