With no fiscal cliff deal yet and mere hours away from the Jan. 1 deadline, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced early Sunday evening that the upper chamber will reconvene at 11 a.m. tomorrow.
“Roll call votes are possible tomorrow,” the majority leader’s office said in its schedule.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters on the Hill this afternoon that Republicans advanced a proposal last night and “there was an indication that we would have received that by ten o’clock this morning” — but it hadn’t been received.
But Thune indicated that the ever-obstinate Reid may not be as much of a factor in talks by this point.
“Senator [Mitch] McConnell and Vice President Biden are continuing to discuss this and we think there perhaps still could be a path forward,” Thune said of the minority leader.
One sticking point appeared to be a chained consumer price index (CPI), an alternative measure of inflation. Democrats contend that will hit Social Security recipients.
“Chained CPI to us is not just about replacing the sequester today,” Thune said. “It’s putting in place a policy that will help save and protect Social Security in the long-term. But that being said, if Democrats don’t accept that as an offset, then come up with something else.”
Snippets floated out about the dollar figures on the table for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. Reid was reportedly willing to make the threshold as high as $360,000 for individuals, and the GOP countered with an offer of $450,000 as the cutoff for tax hikes.
“The latest unacceptable Republican offer would mean more pain for the middle class, poor & seniors – and more giveaways to the wealthiest,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) tweeted.
“What [Reid] will more than likely do, if history is any guide in this, is take a bill and fill the amendment tree and prevent Republicans from having an opportunity to offer amendments,” Thune said. “I think we would welcome the opportunity to have an open debate on the floor of the United States Senate that the American people could observe and be a part of.”
Republican reactions with the Senate adjournment were anywhere from guarded to pessimistic.
“I’m incredibly disappointed we cannot seem to find common ground. I think we’re going over the cliff,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “CPI has been taken off the table for the fiscal cliff negotiations. Should be part of entitlement reform package.”
Republicans admitted that they didn’t expect the chained CPI to be part of the deal but wanted to “start big,” in the words of Lone Star State Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), going into last-minute negotiations.
Graham said the Democrats put forth a proposal that increased spending by $600 billion. “Revenues generated from higher taxes were spent and not one penny went toward deficit reduction,” Graham said.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), former president of the Club for Growth, said that was a non-starter.
“I still hope we can avert the worst consequences of the fiscal cliff and protect as many Americans as possible from a massive tax increase,” Toomey said. “Unfortunately, the most recent proposal from the Democrats calls for new tax increases to pay for more government spending. We need less spending, not more, in Washington.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) agreed. “It’s impossible to get to any deal on the fiscal cliff when Majority Leader Reid and President Obama refuse to consider meaningful cuts in spending. They are demanding we raise taxes on working families and small businesses – and worse – using these tax increases for more government spending,” he said. “Sending more taxpayer dollars to Washington isn’t the solution to this situation; cutting wasteful government spending and enabling Americans to keep more of their own money is.”
The ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee confirmed that no deal had been reached that Congress could vote on, “much less one that could be scored by CBO or scrutinized by the American people.”
“The biggest obstacle we face is that President Obama and Majority Leader Reid continue to insist on new taxes that will be used to fund more new spending, not for meaningful deficit reduction. The result is nearly $9 trillion in new debt accumulation over the next decade, which represents virtually no change from current projections,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
“By now, it should be clear to all that secret negotiations are not working. In the new year, the Senate must return to the difficult but necessary process of open, public legislative work that this chamber was conceived to carry out.”
The House is still in session to vote on 13 bills this evening — none of them dealing with the fiscal cliff but ranging from drywall safety to a World War I memorial.
UPDATE: The House Rules Committee called an emergency late meeting tonight to set in motion the waiver of the normal three-day waiting period for legislation. This would allow the chamber to approve any fiscal cliff deal the same day.
UPDATE: By a quick voice vote, the Rules Committee approved same-day authority for any resolution brought to the House on Dec. 31.