Fiscal Cliff Notes for Dec. 27, 2012
4 days to the fiscal cliff
BREAKING NEWS SCOOP: GOP CONFERENCE CALL THURSDAY AFTERNOON
Republican House leaders are holding a "members only" conference call at 2:30 p.m. Thursday as the path is not clear to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff by the Dec. 31 deadline. President Barack Obama gets back to the White House at 11:45 a.m. in order to deal with the stalemate.
BOEHNER AND THE HASTERT RULE
Policy and Pragmatism 101: Making the deal means constant tending to the question of whether a negotiated package can make it to the floors of the House and Senate for a vote. The Democrats control the Senate--which means Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) can call a vote--even if he needs GOP support to build a supermajority. In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a crucial decision--does he call a bill even if it fails to have support of the majority of his GOP colleagues--which means it would take Democratic votes to pass.
I write about this--and the governing principle named after former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in my Thursday column; read it HERE.
Excerpt: The Senate -- under rules that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to change -- needs a supermajority of 60 votes to pass anything, which means the majority Democrats have to woo some GOP support to get anything done.
With only a few days left, Boehner's threshold decision is whether to allow House members to vote on a measure negotiated between all the parties -- but would only pass with the help of Democratic votes. That decision trumps everything else on the table right now.
The Senate is back from Christmas break on Thursday. Boehner told members he would give them a 48-hour notice to return, which means the earliest anything can happen is Saturday.
SUN-TIMES DAVID ROEDER: MARKETS AND THE FISCAL CLIFF
Business write David Roeder reports that the markets are braced for Congress going over the fiscal cliff. Read his story HERE.
AT-A-GLANCE: WHAT IF THERE IS NO DEAL
CBS explains some of the consequences if Congress does not act on the fiscal cliff by Dec. 31: Automatic tax hikes and federal government cuts--about $110 billion a year for 10 years in an article HERE.
COMPLICATING MATTERS: HITTING THE DEBT CEILING
Obama threw in the fiscal cliff discussions lifting the debt ceiling, giving him a long-term solution to not being held hostage to the periodic need to raise the debt ceiling--since default is not an option. Now in the mix is the notice Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner gave Congress on Wednesday--that the statutory debt limit will be reached on Dec. 31, 2012.
From the Geithner letter to Congress: "the Treasury Department will shortly begin taking certain extraordinary measures authorized by law to temporarily postpone the date that the United States would otherwise default on its legal obligations.
"These extraordinary measures, which are explained in detail in an appendix to this letter, can create approximately $200 billion in headroom under the debt limit. Under normal circumstances, that amount of headroom would last approximately two months. However, given the significant uncertainty that now exists with regard to unresolved tax and spending policies for 2013, it is not possible to predict the effective duration of these measures. At this time, the extent to which the upcoming tax filing season will be delayed as a result of these unresolved policy questions is also uncertain. If left unresolved, the expiring tax provisions and automatic spending cuts, as well as the attendant delays in filing of tax returns, would have the effect of adding some additional time to the duration of the extraordinary measures. Treasury will provide more guidance regarding the expected duration of these measures when the policy outlook becomes clearer."