It’s not quite clear where the negotiations are going on the tax and budget impasse known as the fiscal cliff, as the verbal sparring increased on Wednesday and Republicans prepare to push ahead with their own fallback plan in the House.
“I hope the President will get serious soon,” said Speaker John Boehner, as he exchanged verbal jabs with Mr. Obama from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
The President, meanwhile, argued that he had moved more than halfway towards Republicans in these negotiations and that it was time for a handshake on an agreement.
“The fact that they haven’t taken it yet is puzzling and I think a question that you’re going to have to address to them,” the President told reporters.
But Republicans were still holding out for more budget cuts, arguing that the White House cannot count several hundred billion dollars in interest savings on the debt as a spending reduction.
Meanwhile, more and more lawmakers were quietly saying that they expect to be here next week – as in between Christmas and New Year’s – convinced that a deal is not going to be reached soon enough to get everything done by Monday.
Add in that many Senators may be out of town for a Sunday funeral in Hawaii for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, and the conventional wisdom is that everyone will go home for a few days and then return after Santa does his work.
“I don’t think anybody knows if we’re going to get anything done before Christmas,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL).
Late on Wednesday night, House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier kept saying “next week” when talking about additional work by his key panel – not exactly what many lawmakers, staff and reporters wanted to hear.
One colleague of mine who works for a major television network was supposed to leave yesterday for Hawaii, assigned to cover the President during his winter vacation there.
It was a perfect set up – she is from Hawaii – and so her husband and kids left yesterday for their vacation, while she had to stay behind in Washington.
And she might not be able to join them in Hawaii – unless there’s a fiscal cliff deal.
We have worked three Christmas Eves in a row on Capitol Hill – may as well make it a fourth next Monday, right?
(Dear Santa, please make these people go away. Sincerely, the Capitol Hill Press Corps.)
Finally, on a more serious note, the “Plan B” legislation coming up in the House involves one of those great legislative moves that often happen late in a session.
In order to gain some legislative flexibility, the House is adding the GOP “Plan B” on to a measure that has already passed the House and was then amended by the Senate – a measure that renews a trade law dealing with Burma.
Republicans last night also added on a spending cut bill that was virtually identical to one that had been approved back in May by the House, introducing it at 8:40 pm, with little notice to anyone outside of the House Rules Committee.
As for the “Plan B,” it would make permanent some, but not all of the Bush tax rates, extending them for all but those taxpayers who earn more than $1 million a year.
It also includes estate tax provisions with a 35% maximum rate and an exemption of $5 million, plus it adds in a patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax.
You can read up on the “Plan B” tax changes at http://1.usa.gov/VS1Cqj.