No fiscal cliff vote in House tonight, members advised to stay close by Update: Senate vote tonight? Update: Deal reached to punt on sequester

posted at 5:31 pm on December 31, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

There will be no vote in the House Monday night, ensuring that we will indeed go cliff-diving, at least for a day. The good news is the possible deal will set up another year of mini-cliffs. Happy New Year! This is where we learn that those who made the argument this is a “fiscal slope” rather than a cliff were correct. With the markets closed Tuesday and some assurance a deal is within reach, the economy will not go into free fall tomorrow.

The House was not expected to vote on any measure Monday night, so the U.S. will technically be going over the “fiscal cliff” at midnight, sources told CNBC. The House GOP caucus was scheduled to meet late Monday afternoon, but focusing on relief from Hurricane Sandy.

Members have been advised to stick around, Boehner tweets, along with an icy assessment of the Senate:

Boehner is expected to give a statement when Republicans come out of their 5 p.m. meeting. Robert Costa does what everyone’s doing right now, reading the refreshments at the House GOP conference:

According to reporters outside the room, most GOP lawmakers are waiting to opine until they hear more details about the deal. National Journal takes the temperature as the GOP prepared to go into its meeting:

Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia huddled near one of the fireplaces in the speaker’s lobby, chatting with reporters—it was chilly on the House floor, he said. Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma talked into a TV camera near the statue of fellow Sooner-stater Will Rogers.

At the North end of the Capitol, Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona ladled chicken Florentine soup into a throwaway container, grabbed a pack of crackers, and, when asked whether he was frustrated about the status of the fiscal-cliff talks, told a reporter, “Don’t talk to me now, please.”

So, yes, the mood on the Hill this New Year’s Eve is a mix of idle tension and expectation. Even though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden are engaging in legislative alchemy to negotiate a fiscal-cliff exit ramp and optimism reigns–for now–it’s frustration that rules.

“There’s only two people in this town trying to solve the problem. The other 534 are sitting around waiting for somebody to agree to something in a back room. It ought to be done out in the open. The public’s business ought to be public,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in an interview.

President Obama said negotiators are homing in on a deal to prevent across-the-board tax hikes after midnight. Even though it’s not done yet, details of what has been agreed to began to emerge.

Methinks some lawmakers shouldn’t be so cavalier about admitting their uselessness:

The sourness of being left out of talks is not limited to Republican senators. Their minority counterparts in the House are left wondering what’s next as well.

“Unfortunately, a majority of us are not involved in any of the negotiations, and we go back to our districts and people say, ‘What are you doing? What’s happening?’ And we’re waiting like anybody else,” said Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland.

As for details, there are no new spending cuts, only discussion of tax rates and how much more we’ll spend. There are wins for sanity in the mix (permanent AMT fix), but this is not a “deficit reduction” plan, folks. Welcome to this warped town. Negotiators will call it a plan to make “wiser” cuts than sequestration would have, but sentient beings are right to be concerned about whether they will ever materialize.

Molly Ball has a nice run-down of the basics, as does the National Journal. Read both for your basics in preparation for a vote tomorrow or for party banter tonight, if you’re going to a really crappy party.

I’ll update with Boehner’s statement when it comes.

Update (AP): More on the timeline from Robert Costa:

Update (MKH): If you’re interested enough to want to follow this throughout the night, Costa’s your man, by the way. According to various reporters outside meetings on the Hill, Sen. John McCain was asked “deal or no deal,” and he said “deal.” Sen. Jon Kyl is “hoping” for a vote tonight, and Sen. Johnny Isakson said “there’ll probably be a vote tonight on our side.”

Chad Pergram of Fox on the timing. The Senate is now looking for “pay-fors,” he said, to justify putting off sequestration cuts for two months.

Update (AP): Are they going to vote on a complete fiscal-cliff package, though? Or, as McConnell suggested earlier, just the tax portion? At the moment, the sequester is the sticking point.

Update (AP): Tea-party patience has run out.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) lashed out at the upper chamber today as a symbol of government’s runaway power in Americans’ lives.

“It’s an alternate universe. No, this — this place is a joke. I mean, bottom line, this is an absurd process,” Johnson said on CNBC. “It certainly proves the genius of our founding fathers that government should be limited. I mean, the fact that we have this place having such an enormous effect on our economy, on people’s livelihood, is wrong. It’s simply wrong.”

“So, I’m the manufacturer. I’m always looking for the cause of problems. The cause of the problem is that government is far too large. It’s far too intrusive into our lives. It exerts way too much control over our economy, but that’s where we’re at. And, you know, I have no — I don’t know too many people that really think government’s effective or efficient. Why would they think the governing body of that government would be particularly effective or efficient as well?” he continued. “This is a mere symptom of the overall problem in a system of government that has become too large and too intrusive in our lives.”

Watch Rand Paul pile on, too. Quote: “What does the [Senate] Majority Leader say? ‘We won’t do anything about entitlements.” Oh great, this is going to be a real great solution. But we’re going to stick it to rich people! I hope nobody works for those rich people.”

Update (AP): Just to make this sham a little more of a sham, the spending-cuts portion of the cliff is now officially postponed.

“Sequestration will not be implemented for two months,” said Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

McCain said the $24-billion cost of delaying the sequester would be offset by other cuts so as not to add to the deficit, but those details remain unresolved.

“They haven’t ironed that out yet,” he said of the sequester.

Update (AP): Hmmmm:

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