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Ex-President Clinton says two parties feeling each other out over fiscal-cliff proposals

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 9:43 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that Democrats and Republicans are like dogs “sniffing each other out” over a piece of meat in their negotiation to avert the “fiscal cliff,” suggesting the two sides are approaching a deal.

Clinton told a Sacramento audience that while watching news of the negotiation Tuesday he feared “the American people are going to be sick when they watch this.”

“But it’s just a Kabuki dance,” Clinton said at Memorial Auditorium. “They’re sort of like two dogs that meet each other over a piece of meat. They’re sniffing each other out. They are moving toward a deal. That’s what’s going on.”

President Barack Obama and Republicans remain at odds over how to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, approaching in four weeks, in which temporary tax cuts are set to expire and automatic spending reductions are scheduled to take effect.

Clinton was a prominent surrogate for Obama in his re-election bid this year, nowhere more so than in a widely praised address to the Democratic National Convention.

The former president on Tuesday made no mention of the possibility of his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, running again for president, in 2016. Nor did he discuss the current controversy around the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether to consider one of several cases involving the act, which Clinton signed into law in 1996.

Clinton was asked if, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, he would once again sign the legislation undoing the Glass-Steagall Act, which limited the activities of commercial banks.

“Yeah, I think so,” Clinton said.

He said the “general assumption that Glass-Steagall had something to do with this is wrong,” though he acknowledged the action might have accelerated the growth of big banks.

As he has before, Clinton said he regretted not calling more vocally for greater regulation of derivatives, the controversial financial instrument, though he said Congress would have prevented him from acting on that matter.

His speech in Sacramento followed appearances in Denver on Monday night and Tuesday. The Sacramento Speakers Series, which organized the event, declined to say how much it paid the former president. He has made millions of dollars giving speeches since leaving office in 2001. The Bee is a sponsor of the lecture series.

In the audience was Scott Lanphear, 58, of Orangevale.

Lanphear, an independent voter, said Clinton was “very enjoyable,” particularly how he seemed to recognize “it’s all a game we’re stuck in.”

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