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Bill Clinton: Congress will punt on fiscal cliff

June 5, 2012: 7:14 PM ET

Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that lawmakers will most likely put off making a set of crucial spending and tax decisions until 2013.

"[Congress] will probably have to put everything off until early next year," Clinton said during an interview with CNBC. "That's probably the best thing to do right now."

Clinton was referring to the so-called fiscal cliff -- a series of measures set to begin in January that would take more than $500 billion out of the economy in 2013 alone.

Those measures include the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and protection of the middle class from the Alternative Minimum Tax, the onset of $1 trillion in blunt spending cuts, and a reduction in Medicare doctors' pay.

Republicans pounced on Clinton's comments, arguing that he had indicated support for an extension of the Bush tax cuts, a position that would run contrary to that of President Obama. But in a statement released Tuesday night, Clinton aides said the former president backed Obama's plan and was simply expressing doubt "that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election."

Asked about economic headwinds, Clinton placed some of the blame on Congress, saying that the economic situation would have improved if Obama's economic agenda had received more support.

"The thing that's cost jobs here has been the Congress' policies," Clinton said, adding that Obama's jobs plan -- largely ignored by Congress -- would have supported hiring at the local and state levels, and that both parties should be able to support infrastructure programs.

And Clinton said the United States should reform its corporate tax system in an effort to promote growth.

"I think we could get a quicker recovery if we could reform the corporate tax laws, lower the rates, broaden the base, and offer the corporations a chance to bring the money back free now if they would invest at least a portion of it in the infrastructure back where they get a very good return on investment," Clinton said.

This being an election year, Clinton also got in a few jabs at Mitt Romney.

"I think the most important thing in this election is what will President Obama do and what would Governor Romney do with the economy," Clinton said.

"Do they favor growth now and restraint later, which I think is right? Or do they favor austerity and more unemployment now and then adopt a budget that will explode the deficit later? That's what I'm most worried about."

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About This Author
Charles Riley
Charles Riley
Reporter, CNNMoney

Charles Riley lives and works in Hong Kong, where he covers markets, economics and other high-impact stories across Asia. He previously worked for CNNMoney in New York and CNN in Washington. He tweets @CRrileyCNN

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