The House is planning to leave tonight without taking a vote on the fiscal cliff.
The Senate is still very much in session, and lawmakers in floor speeches this afternoon have referenced an imminent deal despite persistent differences on taxes and spending.
“The kind of things we’re hearing about the agreement, we might be able to go forward,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) just said on the floor.
“It looks like all of the tax things are going to be made permanent, but all of the other things that the middle class and America really depends on is extended for one year, maybe two years — one year or two years at the most, but the tax system is made permanent,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said earlier. “Well, I just think that’s grossly unfair — grossly unfair. As I’ve said before, no deal is better than a bad deal and this looks like a very bad deal the way this is shaping up.”
“I’ve been talking with people in the cloakroom and on the Senate floor, Republicans and Democrats alike,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told CNN. “…I think they’re going to get an agreement that’s something that can pass the Senate. And I would hope it would be in a bipartisan way. But no senator is going to say yes right now until they actually get a chance to see what’s in the agreement.”
House Republicans are holding a caucus meeting at 5 p.m., with one series of votes on measures not related to the fiscal cliff afterward.
So unless the caucus hears something at that meeting that makes leadership schedule a late-night vote, the U.S. is formally going over the cliff at midnight.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) spokesman Doug Heye tweeted, “Attn Capitol Hill reporters: It is impossible for the House to schedule a vote on a deal that does not exist. Thank you.”
Consensus on the Hill has been that there’s a day of padding to wrap up negotiations as markets are closed tomorrow for the holiday.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told MSNBC earlier in the day that “giving up is not an option for us.”
“If we can reach agreement, if we can have a unanimous consent in the Senate, I think there is still time to act. But, of course, it’s running out very, very quickly,” he said.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) echoed what lawmakers were hearing about negotiations finally falling into place.
“I certainly think I’m pleased that there may be a deal, bring some certainty to the American people,” he said on CNN. “I’m disappointed that the president took the eve of what might be a bipartisan deal to take a swipe at Congress once again.”
“I’ve said repeatedly that ultimately I’ll find a way to support something that brings certainly to the American people,” Issa added. “But I think that this likely bill is going to have too few cuts and it’s going to depend on a relatively small amount of people that candidly don’t represent enough money to bring a real fix to our trillion dollar deficit.”
Republican lawmakers were united in their disgust of President Obama’s early afternoon speech, backdropped by “middle-class taxpayers” in the Eisenhower office building and punctuated multiple times by quips and laughter.
“If Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone — and you hear that sometimes coming from them, that sort of after today we’re just going to try to shove only spending cuts down — well — shove spending cuts at us that will hurt seniors, or hurt students, or hurt middle-class families, without asking also equivalent sacrifice from millionaires or companies with a lot of lobbyists, et cetera — if they think that’s going to be the formula for how we solve this thing, then they’ve got another thing coming,” the president said.
“That’s not how it’s going to work. We’ve got to do this in a balanced and responsible way. And if we’re going to be serious about deficit reduction and debt reduction, then it’s going to have to be a matter of shared sacrifice — at least as long as I’m president. And I’m going to be President for the next four years, I think.”
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) tweeted, “What the President did today set us back in civility, leadership and in deal making.”
“What did the President of the United States just do? Well, he kind of made fun – he made a couple of jokes. Laughed about how people are going to be here for New Year’s. Sent a message of confrontation to the Republicans,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on the floor. “I guess I have to wonder – and the American people have to wonder – whether the president really wants this issue resolved, or is it to his short term political benefit for us to go over the cliff. I can assure the president, I can assure him, that historians judge presidents on their achievements.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the back-room negotiations were leading “to a lot of intrigue and dysfunction.”
“This place is so dysfunctional. You should bring the House bill to the floor and let every senator have their say about what they would like to see happen. There are 80 votes to avoid the fiscal cliff,” Graham said on Fox.
“But here is the number one issue for me: whatever money is raised between now and tomorrow I hope all it goes on the deficit and none of it goes to grow the government. And if any of it goes to grow the government, count me out.”
UPDATE: House Republicans have been told to stay close to the Capitol tonight just in case a deal comes through, and to take it easy on the New Year’s Eve cheer in case they are sent a bill by the Senate. If they’re not called back tonight, lawmakers have been told to be at the House by noon tomorrow.