Tick tock: No deal on the fiscal cliff yet; Update: The last hope is …

posted at 9:31 am on December 31, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

I think this is the moment when Harvey Keitel started running after the blue 1966 Thunderbird convertible at the Grand Canyon, isn’t it?

Senate leaders are racing against the clock to reach a “fiscal cliff” deal the House and Senate can approve on New Year’s Eve.

Leaders in the upper chamber narrowed their differences Sunday as Republicans agreed to drop a demand to curb cost-of-living increases to entitlement benefits, while Democrats showed flexibility on taxes.

Yet after months of talks on ways to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of 2012, House and Senate lawmakers find themselves approaching the new year without a bill to present to their members.

Significant differences remain over two key parts of a deal — the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester and the estate tax.

Instead of working through the night, the Senate recessed at 7:27 p.m. Sunday with plans to reconvene Monday at 11:00 a.m., and the House recessed around the same time.

Without legislative language, the likelihood of stopping the leap seems pretty low. Even if Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell reach a deal this morning, they’d have to schedule a vote by this afternoon — and hope it gets a floor vote with no debate by unanimous consent. What’s the likelihood that Rand Paul will allow that?  Remote.

Even if the Senate managed such an effort, the House would have to pass the deal in time for Barack Obama to sign it before midnight.  I think the goal now has become to pass a deal before the next Congressional session starts, so that they don’t have to restart the process all over again.  That means that the new deadline will be Wednesday, January 2nd, and a deal this morning with legislative language has a decent shot at making it … assuming a deal is reached at all.

Here’s Chuck Todd claiming that the chances of getting a deal “really depends on the political motivations” of the negotiators.  In other words … status quo ante, right?  This whole crisis generated from political motivations over the last three years. It started with Harry Reid refusing to use the normal budget process in order to shield Democrats from voting for the fiscal consequences of their own spending policies, preferring artificial crises to pressure Republicans into sharing the blame for them; otherwise, we could have resolved all of these disagreements through the usual conference-committee process.  Funny how Chuck never mentions that while insisting that it’s the Republicans who are making purely political moves at that point.

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Update: Has it gotten this desperateHelp us, Joe-bi-Wan Bidenobi …

With the fiscal cliff just hours away, there is new hope that conversations between Sen. Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden can produce a deal to avert the financial disaster. Aides say the pair spoke multiple times last night and will continue working toward a solution.

McConnell called the vice president after waiting 18 hours for a counter proposal from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who seemed to throw in the towel.

The thought of Reid getting cut out of the solution may make the pain of the compromise a little easier to take.

Update II: Andrew Malcolm has declared Biden the 2012 Joke of the Year.  Maybe the joke will be on Harry Reid …


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