Reid, McConnell working on new fiscal-cliff plan

posted at 11:31 am on December 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Looks like John Boehner may get his wish.  After his Plan B collapsed, Boehner has insisted that the ball is in the Senate’s court, as the House has already passed legislation that would resolve the fiscal cliff.  The Hill reports that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are now working on a plan that they will reveal sometime tomorrow — as the eleventh hour ticks away:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are working on an agreement to avoid across-the-board tax hikes and plan to show it to colleagues Sunday.

Senate leaders emerged optimistic from a Friday afternoon meeting at the White House with President Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Vice President Biden and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also attended. …

Both Reid and McConnell sounded hopeful they could craft an agreement over the next 24 to 36 hours, although Reid said he was under no illusion that members of his caucus would accept it without complaint.

“I’m going to do everything I can. I’m confident Sen. McConnell will do the same. But … whatever we come up with is going to be imperfect. Some people aren’t going to like it. Some people will like it less. But that’s where we are,” Reid said.

Reid has scheduled a Democratic caucus meeting for Sunday afternoon to give his colleagues a chance to weigh in on a potential deal.

McConnell said he would do the same.

“We are engaged in discussions — the majority leader and myself and the White House — in the hopes that we can come forward as early as Sunday and have a recommendation that I can make to my conference,” McConnell said. “And so we’ll be working hard to try to see if we can get there in the next 24 hours.”

I’ll guess at the relative terms of the deal.  It will lock in the Bush-era tax rates permanently for those earning below $400,000 — a heady bit of symbolism, as that’s the salary for the President — and allow rates above that to rise to 39.6%.  It will patch the AMT — again — and address the other less-known aspects of the fiscal cliff.  There probably won’t be much done to fix the sequester cuts at all, at least not immediately.  That will end up waiting for the debt-ceiling fight, which will come in a couple of months, unless Democrats are willing to sweeten the pot to get a one-year extension as part of this deal.

If that’s the proposal, will Boehner go for it?  Almost certainly; according to The Hill, he’s agreed in principle to allow an immediate floor vote on any bill the Senate can pass.  If the Senate gets a bill passed purely on Democratic votes, then Boehner will probably instruct his caucus to vote “present” and let Democrats own the results.  If it gets significant Republican support, the House vote will probably flow smoothly enough to allow conservatives worried about primary challenges to oppose it, and have Democrats do the heavy lifting for passage.

If that sounds as if this deal could have been struck weeks ago — or perhaps years ago — well, that just means you’ve been paying attention. Now all sides are worried about the fallout from failure, and anything will look better than nothing to some.  Not to all, of course, and there will be still some substantial effort made on both sides to hold out for total victory, but leadership on both sides have squeezed out all of the painless good will they can from this standoff.  The sooner they get this off the table, the more time they have until the next election for everyone to forget what a joke this turned out to be.

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