Congress girds for a long December

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It’s looking less and less likely that Congress and the White House will reach agreement on the year-end “fiscal cliff” before Christmas, leading to predictions Washington is in for a long December waiting for a resolution.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) continued to blast Republicans over the fiscal cliff negotiations — which cover a suite of impending tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts lawmakers and President Obama would like to avoid, although they have not agreed on how. And he doused expectations that a resolution would present itself in the next two weeks.

“We can do things very quickly, but this is not something we can do easily, at least as far as bill-drafting goes. But until we hear something from the Republicans, there’s nothing to draft,” Reid said during his weekly news conference yesterday. “So, we can get things done quickly. I think it’s going to be extremely difficult to get it done before Christmas, but it could be done.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) likewise repeatedly told reporters that “we’re running out of time.”

“It’s time to see whether the president’s willing to cut any spending at all and whether he’s willing to lead his party in the direction of making an agreement with us,” McConnell added.

And later in the day, the House Rules Committee adopted a resolution by voice vote that would keep the House floor open through Dec. 28 to allow for votes under suspension of the rules. That would allow the House to complete unfinished business with a two-thirds vote of present members.

But expressing more optimism, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told reporters yesterday he’d be surprised if members are here after the holidays.

In addition to the fiscal cliff, Reid said he also would like Congress to pass supplemental funding for Superstorm Sandy recovery, defense authorization and an intelligence bill before the end of the year.

During the Rules Committee hearing, ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) blasted Republicans for not bringing up other issues, such as the “Violence Against Women Act” or the farm bill, while fiscal cliff negotiations are ongoing.

“We haven’t seen an honest day’s work out of Congress for a month,” she said.

Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said he also hoped to see more action on the bigger issues and noted there has been “lots of discussion on the farm bill in particular.”