Eric Swalwell hasn't even gotten the keys yet to his new Congressional office and just recently found a room to call home while in Washington.
But when he is officially sworn in on Jan. 3 to represent California's 15th Congressional District, the 32-year-old Democrat and the rest of the new Congress might be forced to quickly find a solution to something that has left the current Congress in a quagmire — the fiscal cliff.
One of Swalwell's most influential constituents, his mother, has given the congressman-elect an earful over the holidays on the importance of not going over the fiscal cliff.
"My mom has never made over $100,000 in her life," Swalwell said. "She calculated how much she will owe if we go over the fiscal cliff and it's about $3,000. I know if it's going to hit her, it's going to hit a lot of middle-class families in the district."
Swalwell, who won his seat by defeating 20-term Congressman Pete Stark in November, says he hopes the current Congress and the President can come to an agreement by the end of the year. If not, Swalwell said the consequences of falling over the cliff could have dire consequences for his district and the country.
What makes Jan. 1, 2013 financially important to almost every American, and why the phrase "fiscal cliff" has been uttered way too many times this holiday season, is because that's the day the Bush tax cuts expire.
The tax cuts, first implemented in 2001 and extended for two years in 2010, lowered the marginal tax rates for all tax brackets. On the first day of 2013, the tax cuts expire and everyone's marginal tax rate goes back to the pre-Bush levels.
Along with the marginal tax raise, if no deal in Washington is met by the end of the year, the payroll tax will immediately increase by 2 percent. On top of $500 billion tax increase, there will be broad spending cuts — impacting everything from defense spending to unemployment insurance — totaling about $200 billion.
The fiscal cliff in one sentence, as described by The Washington Post's Wonkblog, is, "Much too much austerity, much too quickly." If no agreement is made, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the U.S. economy will go back into recession and the unemployment rate will rise to 9.1 percent (it's currently at 7.7 percent) by the end of 2013.
Swalwell said he backs President Barack Obama's solution to the fiscal cliff conundrum. He would like the tax cuts to become permanent for everyone making less than $250,000, but for the rates to rise for everyone making more. Republicans would like to the Bush tax cuts to become permanent for all incomes.
"Congress needs to, right now, keep tax rates where they are for 98 percent of Americans," Swalwell said. "Asking the wealthiest 2 percent to pay their fair share seems reasonable."
With the clock ticking, Swalwell believes there isn't time to tackle the long-term fiscal problems facing the country, like Social Security and Medicare spending. For the time being, Republicans and Democrats should focus on not raising taxes on middle-class families but rather on trying to solve the big issues during the 113th Congress, Swalwell said.
"I'm optimistic that the cry of the American people to avoid the fiscal cliff will be heard," Swalwell said.
If those cries go unanswered, the new Congress will have try and remedy the situation before there is too much economic damage.
That's a distinct possibility. House Speaker John Boehner said he's waiting for the Senate to pass a bill before he will call Congress back into session, Politico reported Wednesday.
It will take two days for congressional representatives to return to Washington.
There are four days before the country goes cliff-diving.
Do you think Congress and the President will come to an agreement before we go over the fiscal cliff? What do you think will be a fair compromise? Tell us in the comments section.