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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Hurdles in Getting a Fiscal Curb Deal By Monday

     Amid new optimism about getting a deal, there are some hurdles, both on policy and procedural. The policy issues are about taxes:

     “Taxes remain the primary sticking point. Republicans have signaled a willingness to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all income up to $400,000, while Democrats prefer the $250,000 figure that Obama campaigned on, according to sources in both parties.”

     “Tied into that discussion was another over the estate tax, with Republicans and some Western Democrats pushing to keep estates worth up to $5 million exempt from taxes, while Obama pushed to lower the threshold to $3.5 million.”

     It’s hard to see why this should be insurmountable. Actually, $400,000 certainly wouldn’t kill me; I’m not sure I wouldn’t even prefer it to $250,000 which does seem a little low-are a couple who make $250,000 a year really rich?

     Still, I’m very pleased that the debate is between $400,000 and $250,000, and not $400,000 and $1,000,000. The President is certainly right to go back to the $250,000 mark. The GOP should have taken the $400,000-not to mention chained CPI; an idea many liberals hate, and I’m none too fond of myself-when they had the chance. Snooze, you lose.

    The trouble with raising it to $400,000 though is that this is also another tax cut for the rich as they pay less tax on their income between $250,000 and $400,000 as Greg Sargent points out. As for the estate tax, maybe they can split the difference. Again, none of this sounds insurmountable.

   “Politically, the key is not just to pass something out of the Democratically controlled Senate, but also to do so with enough votes from Republicans to compel their House counterparts to support a deal. A bill with limited support from Senate Republicans would be dead on arrival in the GOP-dominated House, aides in both chambers said.”

    “The critical deadline for the Senate-based negotiations is Sunday afternoon, according to Reid and McConnell. If they can come up with something by then, the Senate could approve it by late Sunday or late Monday morning, giving the House the rest of New Year’s Eve to consider it.”

     “Even under this optimistic timeline, Senate and House leaders would need cooperation from the hard-liners in their respective caucuses, who could turn to procedure to block a compromise.
Under normal Senate rules, for instance, a new piece of legislation could take a full week to begin consideration, have full debate and then final passage.”

    “To avoid that, the Senate would instead likely take up a bill that has already passed the House — and which keeps all taxes at their current rates — and gut it and replace it with new language. Even so, McConnell would need to ensure that the most conservative Republicans don’t filibuster the measure or then force a lengthy 30-hour debate, which is allowed under Senate rules.
If all of that can be worked out, the Senate would ship a bipartisan deal across the Capitol Rotunda by Sunday night or Monday morning.”

     “The first thing that would have to happen in the House is an agreement to waive a rule instituted under Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) that requires a full day between the time a bill is published and when it is voted on.”

     “Boehner has also discussed amending a Senate-passed bill with a more conservative tilt on taxes — a possibility he again raised during Friday’s White House meeting.”

    “Let us know what you come up with, and we’ll consider it — accept or amend it,” Boehner told the other leaders, according to the notes of a Boehner aide.

     “Amending the bill would send it back across the Senate for last-minute consideration, with many of the same procedural hurdles applying again and with the clock ticking steadily toward midnight.
Most congressional aides, however, have little faith in the speaker’s ability to amend anything, because Democrats would withhold their votes and he would need at least 217 Republicans to support him. That would set up a replay of Boehner’s ill-fated “Plan B” from last week, in which several dozen Republicans refused to support any increase in tax rates.”

     “If there were not 217 GOP votes to amend the bill, Boehner would then hold a vote. And if enough Democrats and Republicans supported it and Obama were willing to sign it, Washington would have a deal.”

     The reason for optimism about the House is for one thing the GOP gains nothing by waiting till January and going over the cliff as the next Congress will be more Democratic. In addition, Boehner doesn”t want to be the reason we go over the cliff which will be the case if the Senate sends him something and he refuses to put it up for  a vote.


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