Capitol Hill latest by FNC’s Chad Pergram

Urgent: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Hill for Thursday

Per Pergram-Capitol Hill

Several big things to watch for on Capitol Hill today.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has its open hearing on Benghaziat 8 am. Keep in mind this is the hearing where Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was supposed to testify before sustaining a concussion. I am told she will testify “before mid-January” once she heals.

A similar hearing is held in the House this afternoon at 1 pm before the House Foreign Relations Committee.

The late-Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI, pronounced inn-OH-way) will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda this morning starting at 10. There will be a brief ceremony with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Vice President Biden. Senate Chaplain Barry Black delivers the opening prayer. House Chaplain Patrick Conroy delivers the benediction. We expect that to last about a half hour.

They will open the Rotunda to the public to pay their respects at noon. He will lay in state through tomorrow morning.

He is the 32nd person to lay in state. The last was President Gerald Ford in late December 2006 and January 2007. He is the first non-president to lay in state since the late Sen. and Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL) in 1989.

They will lay the casket atop the catafalque (pronounced KATT-uh-falk), a dark, wooden platform which they use for such occasions. It was originally constructed for President Lincoln when he lay in state in the Rotunda and has been used for such ceremonies ever since.

An honor guard will stand watch over Inouye’s body throughout the day and night.

Finally, the fiscal cliff.

This got very interesting last night.

The House GOP leadership altered its plan for today. It prepped not one but two bills for the floor today.

First, there is a measure to renew tax breaks for all making less than $1 million. Then they scrapped the plan to renew tax breaks for those making up to $200,000. Instead, they replaced that plan with a spending cut bill to take the place of the sequester for a year.

There were many questions last night if Boehner’s Plan B could pass…because so many Republicans howled about no spending cuts. So this is viewed as a sweetener to court Republican votes. But late last night, the Rules Committee prepped this measure for the floor…without any bill text. Democrats were apolplectic and refused to participatie in last night’s final Rules Committee meeting. We have exceptional sound in DC and NY from this, with Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and others describing the GOP gambit as “skullduggery” and “an artifice.”

Statement from Rules Committee Democrats is here:

“The process undertaken by the Rules Committee this evening is so outrageous and empty, we refuse to participate in this hoax.  Last night, at midnight, House Republicans released two proposals for consideration at today’s meeting. Minutes before the meeting, they released two more proposals. After four hours of political theater and the last minute introduction of yet another piece of legislation during the meeting – a 69 page bill that no one had the opportunity to read – we refuse to grant legitimacy to this debate by participating. What we have witnessed during this meeting does a grave disservice to the American people and is a blatant attempt to hijack the legislative process. At first glance, the legislation they have introduced guts funding for healthcare, food stamps and other vital social service priorities. We will not contribute to a quorum in reporting out this rule.”

As for the House schedule:

We expect the House to start debate on the “rule” (which governs debate) for these two fiscal cliff bills this afternoon. General debate will come in late afternoon with votes this evening.

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