The United States Senate has the ball in its hands.
This afternoon’s White House fiscal cliff summit appears to have generated some movement toward a deal, with just more than 72 hours to go. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both took the floor afterwards in an unusually conciliatory manner, pledging to work with their staffs to come up with a plan that can pass both Houses of Congress. Reid said “we’ll see what we can come up with.” McConnell said he was “hopeful and confident” that both sides will have a deal to take to their conferences shortly after 2 p.m. on Sunday. The words were noncommittal, but the tone was a vast improvement over the deep freeze of recent days.
That would likely be a short-term deal. President Barack Obama did not present a new plan at the meeting — a fact that, once leaked, caused a stock market dip — and told reporters this evening that he was “modestly optimistic:”
I’m optimistic we may be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time. Sens. Reid and McConnell are working on such an agreement as we speak. If an agreement isn’t reached in time between Sen. Reid and Sen. McConnell I will urge Sen. Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up-or-down vote. … The American people are watching what we do here. Obviously their patience is already thin. This is déjà vu all over again.
House Speaker John Boehner also showed some wiggle room here. Democrats’ primary fear is that they go out on a limb on taxes and spending, and then the House does not bother to take it up. Boehner’s failure to whip votes on his “Plan B” did not inspire confidence across the hall. But with help from Democrats, Boehner can shepherd something to passage — it just might not be what the conservative base of his caucus likes. Here’s what a Boehner aide had to say after the White House meeting:
The Speaker told the President that if the Senate amends the House-passed legislation and sends back a plan, the House will consider it – either by accepting or amending. The group agreed that the next step should be the Senate taking bipartisan action.
This is a significant signal to the Senate that any Reid-McConnell accord would make it to the House floor. The details, as always, remain up in the air.
- By Daniel Malloy, Political Insider