Speaker John Boehner
Members of the House Republican Caucus, led by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio (second from left). Reuters

Republicans would shoulder most of the blame if Congress and the White House can’t find a way to avert the fiscal cliff, according to a new poll.

Americans are skeptical that Washington can overcome its gridlock and strike a deal, according to a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll. A majority of respondents said Obama and Congress would not be able to reach an agreement, and that notion was accompanied by widespread pessimism: Respondents said by a wide margin that a failure to prevent the fiscal cliff would negatively affect the economy and their personal finances.

And when asked who would be more responsible for the failure to find a compromise, respondents chose Republicans in Congress over President Obama by a 2-to-1 margin.

That carries an echo of last summer’s acrimonious battle over raising the debt ceiling, when resistance by conservative House Republicans helped torpedo a deal and saw Congress’ approval rating plunge to record lows.

The failure to resolve the debt ceiling standoff led directly to the current situation: The first round of $1.2 trillion in planned sequester cuts is set to kick in because a 12-member deficit reduction committee, created as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling, could not agree on a way to slim the deficit. The sequester cuts are scheduled to begin as President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire.

This time around, President Obama is standing firm in his demand that higher taxes on the wealthy be part of a deal. House Republicans have rejected that approach and suggested a framework that raises $800 billion in tax revenue from unspecified sources. Conservative organizations have denounced that counteroffer, calling it a capitulation.