I think FNC’s Chad Pergram was up all night writing this for all of us!

Fiscal Cliff

No one knows this fiscal cliff process better than Chad. See below what he wrote (and then get ready for a day of football. (I know all of you are anxious to see the Packers win against Minnesota, right?)

Urgent: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Congress on Sunday

Per Pergram-Capitol Hill

Expect a very fluid day on the Hill.

Senate comes in at 1 pm et to tackle some nominations and then will recess so D’s and R’s can meet in their respective Caucuses/Conferences to see if Reid and McConnell were able to put something together. Again, we may not have bill text. Perhaps just bullet points on the back of a cocktail napkin.

They COULD come out to the Ohio Clock in the mid afternoon to describe a deal by mid-afternoon.

There are some reports out there that Reid set 3 pm as a deadline. He essentially said mid-afternoon Sunday after he returned from the White House Friday. So that is not a hard deadline.

If they think there are the votes, the Senate may try to move this very quickly. Maybe late tonightor overnight.

This is the “Life Cereal” approach to legislating. They will wait to see if “Mikey” will eat the cereal. If the Senate tries the cereal first and likes it…then, just like in the TV commercial, the others (the House) will start to eat the cereal too.

But this could be a problem for the Senate if tea party loyalists like Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson throw a monkey wrench into things. They could filibuster Reid calling up a bill….meaning Reid has to file a cloture petition just to get the bill on the floor. By their nature, cloture petitions don’t ripen for two days. So the Senate would have to vote Tuesday to get cloture (needing 60 votes) and then file cloture again, so presumably they could vote on the final package Wednesday. Essentially, they would have to clear the 60 vote threshold twice…

This is if things are going swimmingly.

Also…if they are able to get an agreement, expect it to be narrow. Just dealing with renewing the tax cuts and maybe extending the AMT patch and unemployment insurance.

Turning off the sequester or cutting spending is going to be very hard in this environment…especially with the clock working against them.

Some have asked how the Senate can originate such a bill that has revenue implications. Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution says all revenue bills must originate in the House.

Well, sitting down in the Senate’s parliamentary garage is a House-passed vehicle. What they would do is strip it down to its frame and tires. Put in a new legislative engine, bucket seats, a sunroof and XM/Sirius Radio. In other words, fill the shell of the House-passed bill with the Senate agreement..and then drive it over to the House.

So, what about the House?

The House meets at 2 and has unrelated votes on 13 dog and cat bills. They’re called that because they’re “strays.” These miscelaneous bills deal with drywall safety and recognizing the final surviving World War I veteran who died last year.

The House will debate those throughout the afternoon and then vote in the evening.

On their face, these votes don’t seem important. Substantively, they’re not. But what these really serve as are “bedcheck” votes. It is highly likely that we may only have 360-400 members here for this. Many were defeated or retired. So the whip operations in both parties need to assess who all is here. Secondly, bringing everyone to the floor helps them whip and see who might be willing to vote on what.

The Democrats have a Caucus meeting scheduled in late afternoon with a press conference afterward. The GOP will meet this evening following the vote series.

In a best case scenario, the R’s hope to have something (presumably from the Senate) to present to their members. The thought is that if things are going well, the House COULD (and I underscore that) vote tonight or overnight. But that’s unlikely.

First of all, the tea party members and conservatives will scream bloody murder that the bill doesn’t tackle spending.

Boehner told Obama Friday that he would not turn off the sequester unless they could conjure up matching spending cuts.

Pulling this through the House is very tough.

The House also has to create a “rule” to govern the bill on the floor. Typically, rules have to lay over for one night. So the Rules Committee would have to have one meeting to give the House expedited authority to craft a “same-day” rule and then meet again on the rule itself.

The hope is that they could get bipartisan buy-in on a bill. There is NO WAY the Democrats are going to be left to carry all of the water on this…especially since Republicans run the House.

So I suspect this may bleed well into tomorrow or Tuesday in the House. Securing the votes there will be challenging at best.

Wild cards:

The Senate has approved the $60.4 billion Sandy relief bill. But the House has not crafted. bill at all. It’s possible the House COULD load that bill (plus maybe a farm bill extension?) onto a final fiscal cliff product. But again, there is not the appetite to tackle such a big Sandy bill in the House. Too big. Few offsets.

This is also one of the reasons the House can’t pass the farm bill. Too big (despite major cuts) say conservatives. Too small (because of major cuts) say liberals.

Senior aides say tackling such a major bill like this at this stage of the game is a bridge too far. And the Senate bill expires at Noon Thursday, the start of the new Congress. So they’d have to start all over again.

But, what could happen, is the House could pass a more narrow bill…or a smaller package loaded onto the fiscal cliff measure. They’d have to then send it back to the Senate (Ping-Pong, as we call it here) and the Senate would have to approve the new bill. Perhaps even by unanimous consent.

Expect a very arduous, hard to predict day and night. Questions? Please call or email.

Chad Pergram
FOX News
Senior Producer for Capitol Hill

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