A House Democrat and a House Republican said Saturday they do not expect aÂ vote until after the weekend on any proposal to avert the looming fiscalÂ crisis.
Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, andÂ John Yarmuth, D-Ky., both told FoxÂ News they expected the Senate to work on a proposal through Sunday and perhapsÂ into Monday morning before voting, then pass the legislation to the House for aÂ final vote.
“I’m looking for something on Monday,” Yarmuth said. “The Senate is going toÂ have to act first. … They’ll need that time through Sunday and earlyÂ Monday.”
Said Stivers: “I think we’ll see it Monday. I don’t think we’ll see itÂ Sunday.”
What the Senate will offer remains unclear, though the most likely plan isÂ extending tax cuts and deferring a deal on spending cuts until next year.
Senate leaders worked off-stage Saturday to reach a final-hours deal to avertÂ a fiscal crisis, though neither chamber was officially in session.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, adjourned the chamber untilÂ Sunday so Democratic and Republican leaders can negotiate on a deal to presentÂ to the House.
The Nevada Democrat was not seen on Capitol Hill on Saturday and staffersÂ said he did not plan to work from his Senate office. However, Minority LeaderÂ Mitch McConnell was on the Hill.
House members will officially return Sunday should the Senate present themÂ with a plan to stop the tax increases and perhaps the deep spending cuts thatÂ are scheduled to kick in next week.
They also will work on several remaining bills in the lame duck session.Â However, neither the farm bill nor the emergency spending bill for HurricaneÂ Sandy is on the docket.
Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle vowed late Friday to scrambleÂ over the weekend to produce a new bill, on the heels of a high-stakes WhiteÂ House meeting with President Obama that is seen as the last chance to comeÂ together before the tax-hike deadline.
Several senior administration officials told Fox News late Friday night thatÂ McConnell, R-Ky., is showing strong signs that he will help seal a deal.
However, they acknowledges he will have a difficult time getting a dealÂ passed in the Republican-controlled House, whichÂ has so far rejected anyÂ plan that includes allowing tax rates to increase for higher-earningÂ Americans.
Reid called the White House meeting Friday “very constructive.”
“We need to have everybody step back a bit,” he said.
The pledge to work on a new bill is by no means a solution to the sweepingÂ set of tax hikes set to hit Jan. 1, followed by steep spending cuts. LawmakersÂ still have to write the bill, and produce something that can pass bothÂ chambers.
Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room late Friday, voiced a doseÂ of doubt about the Senate leaders’ final push for a deal.
He said he’s “modestly optimistic” but that if Reid and McConnell fail, theÂ Senate should allow an up-or-down vote on a scaled-back proposal the presidentÂ is pushing.
“The hour for immediate action is here, it is now,” Obama said. “We’re now atÂ the last minute, and the American people are not going to have any patience forÂ a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. … We’ve got to get thisÂ done.”
Considering how late this effort is getting underway, lawmakers easily runÂ the risk of missing the deadline and causing at least some uncertainty withÂ Americans’ tax bills starting next week.
The developments late Friday, though, at least showed Reid and McConnell wereÂ beginning to work together. And it marked a decision by lawmakers that theÂ Senate should make the first move — for days, House Speaker John Boehner hasÂ insisted that the Senate act, but Reid has resisted and put the onus on theÂ House.
It’s unclear what the new bill would entail. It appears the Senate wants toÂ tweak the Obama plan, which would include an extension of current tax rates forÂ most Americans — but potentially adjust it so fewer earners see a tax hike, andÂ add a provision dealing with a looming expansion of the estate tax.
The debt ceiling, which Obama wants increased, would not be part of thisÂ bill. And a senior White House official admitted it is unclear how a looming setÂ of spending cuts would be addressed.
The White House official said that during the meeting, Reid and McConnellÂ jumped in and offered to draft a new plan after Obama told them he thought hisÂ scaled-back proposal could pass both chambers.
The president’s plan is a far cry from the kind of “grand bargain” lawmakersÂ were shooting for just a few weeks ago — something that would narrow theÂ deficit, overhaul the tax code and set the country on a course to curb itsÂ entitlement spending, all while averting massive tax hikes and spendingÂ cuts.
Instead, Obama wants a bill that primarily nixes the tax hikes for familiesÂ making under $250,000. He has pushed that particular provision for months,Â though Republicans have adamantly opposed raising taxes on those making aboveÂ $250,000.
Obama’s proposal would also extend unemployment benefits for roughly 2Â million people expected to lose them next year, and deal with “other outstandingÂ issues.”
Obama referred to those other issues last week when he called for laying “theÂ groundwork for future growth and deficit reduction,” which presumably would be aÂ commitment to return next year and draft broader tax and entitlementÂ reform.
The latter idea, though, could stir deep skepticism in Congress — the lastÂ big budget deal in the summer of 2011 ended precisely with such a commitment,Â which in turn ended in failure and the fiscal crisis facing the countryÂ today.
The immediate challenge for negotiators, though, will be to craft a plan thatÂ does enough to spare most Americans a big hike without doing so much as toÂ complicate the bill’s passage. There are a host of expiring provisions next yearÂ — from Medicare rates to doctors to payroll tax cuts — that some lawmakersÂ hoped to address before the end of the month. The more items added to the bill,Â the trickier it gets to pass it.
Lawmakers have been hesitant to predict whether Congress will be able toÂ arrive at any solution.
“We are obviously running out of time here,” McConnell said earlierÂ Friday.
Lawmakers effectively have fewer than two working days to pass legislation.Â While the Senate was in session this week, the House does not return untilÂ Sunday afternoon.
Between now and Jan. 1, Congress has just a handful of options for sparingÂ taxpayers. Aside from the scaled-back plan being offered by Obama or the newÂ plan being drafted in the Senate, lawmakers could simply pass a short-termÂ extension of current rates — buying more time to work out an agreement.Â Lawmakers might have to do this even if they reach an agreement by the weekendÂ — because of the sheer time it would take to write that bill and bring it toÂ the floor.
Or Congress could let the tax hikes happen, only to retroactively deal withÂ them next year. The Boston Globe reported Friday that the IRS may delay theÂ impact of tax hikes by holding off on telling employers to change how much theyÂ withhold from workers.
Source: Fox News