POLITICS
12/31/2012 05:46 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL - Move Over, Times Square: Congress Drops Ball

Like a lemming with crippling self-doubt, Congress is unsure whether it'll jump off the cliff. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, December 31st, 2012:

SENATE UPDATE - Sam Stein: "Republican senators, leaving a Monday afternoon caucus meeting, told reporters that fiscal cliff negotiators have agreed to delay the $1.2 trillion in sequestration related cuts for two months. A Democratic source confirmed that timeframe. That puts the deadline roughly at the same time as the debt ceiling will have to be raised. This presents a natural invitation for lawmakers to exchange the lifting of the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts, which is bad news for an administration that has pledged not to negotiate at all over the debt ceiling. On the flip side, however, Republicans find the sequestration cuts far more onerous than Democrats (half come from defense funds). So the de facto outcome still does favor the president if, indeed, those cuts must be part of a debt ceiling deal." [HuffPost's fiscal cliff liveblog, which exists]

@ChadPergram: Senior Senate R source says they hope the Senate can vote tonight on #fiscalcliff . As to time, source said "10 or 11."

Should old manufactured crises be forgot, and never thought upon: @peteschroeder: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner officially notifies Congress via letter that we've reached the $16.4 trillion debt limit.

OH THE UNCERTAINTY! HOUSE GOP MEETS IN BASEMENT, REPORTERS DON'T KNOW WHETHER THEY ATE CHICKEN FINGERS OR PIZZA : Rep. Steve LaTourette briefed reporters on the Republican meeting in the Capitol basement just now, and shared his feelings on the latest in cliff hell. "This is disgusting and everybody involved should be embarrassed," the Ohio Republican said. "It's not even small ball -- it's a ping pong ball," he said of the latest apparent deal between Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell, which he figured could maybe pass the House with Democratic support. He said the lower chamber will be back in session tomorrow at noon for stuff unrelated to the fiscal cliff. "We're in a waiting game. We're a blue screen until the Senate decides to send us whatever it is they're going to send us."

HOUSE LIKELY WON'T VOTE TONIGHT - House Whip Kevin McCarthy sent his fellow conference members a scheduling update for today that said there would be no fiscal cliff vote tonight, but that members should stay close to the Capitol just in case. Tomorrow is a market holiday and some are arguing that there is not an immediate need to vote this evening. That said, beltway insiders know McCarthy, John Boehner and Eric Cantor will be out in Arlington, yelling "wooooo!!!" out of the sunroof of a white limousine traveling at low speeds down Wilson Boulevard. Just look for the men dressed up in black sequined dresses and plastic "2013" tiaras.

@SpeakerBoehner: House continues to wait for Senate to act on #fiscalcliff. @GOPWhip has advised Members to stay near Capitol in case of further votes.

JOE BIDEN, MITCH MCCONNELL AND HISTORY'S MOST EXPENSIVE LATE NIGHT CHATLINE - The Senate's president and majority leader were on the phone all Sunday night, twirling their receiver cords, asking one another what they were wearing and toying with the idea of trying Molly hammering out a deal to avert the plot to "Speed 3: It Ain't Over 'Til It's Grover." A time has not been set for vote but should a deal be struck it is could be voted upon tonight at the least convenient time for you. The preliminary agreement would achieve up to $790 billion in revenue over the next decade. Some of that money would be offset by extensions of tax credits and other stimulative policy, leaving roughly $715 billion in debt reduction over that same time period. Because the revenue is counted over a decade, much depends on a variety of inexact assumptions, which is why the White House calculation of the total revenue raised by the deal is only $600 billion. The details for the deal, which are still being tinkered with, were passed along to The Huffington Post by a source with direct knowledge of the talks. Under the framework, the Bush-era tax cuts would be extended permanently for individuals at $400,000 and joint filers at $450,000. A second Senate Democratic source familiar with the state of play confirmed those details. The top rate on ordinary income would go back to 39.6 percent and raise an estimated $370 billion in revenue over 10 years. The same thresholds would be applied for capital gains and dividends, with the top rates in that case going up to 20 percent -- a concession to Republicans (the rate on dividends was set to return to 39.6 percent) but not far from the president's position during the campaign. National Review reports that the sequester will be delayed two months. [With Sam Stein]

@eschor: Senior House R just said Senate's $60B #Sandy recovery bill is set to be cut by more than half in the lower chamber.

Life is temporarily less hopeless for the unemployed. A source familiar with negotiations told The Huffington Post that lawmakers would treat the provision as "an emergency measure that shouldn't be paid for." A Senate Democratic and Republican source each confirmed the plan. What that means is that the $30 billion pricetag for a year-long extension will simply be added to the deficit. Republicans have in the past objected to reauthorizing federal unemployment compensation because of its impact on the deficit, though in recessions since World War II Congress has generally added extra weeks of benefits without paying for them. [With Sam]

EASY RESOLUTION: BRING HOME LESS MONEY NEXT YEAR - The payroll tax cut is as good as dead. Catherine New: "At the stroke of midnight, your effective salary will shrink. Starting Tuesday when the payroll tax break expires, around 160 million American workers will bring home less money with every paycheck. For workers earning $50,000 in annual salary, that means $80 a month slashed from take-home pay. That's nearly $1,000 for the year. Another way to think about it: It adds up to one less bag of groceries each week." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Congressional Democrats on Sunday lamented that Congress has stranded 2 million jobless Americans by failing to reauthorize long-term unemployment insurance before it lapsed on Saturday. "An absolute travesty," Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said. "Some of them on the other side are saying, 'We've got a scheduling issue, with trying to get back for New Year's' -- come on, what about these people?" Larson, a member of the Democratic leadership team in the House of Representatives, blamed Republicans for holding up a fiscal cliff fix. "They're at war with their own government, and so they believe to hold up the government, to put everybody up to the cliff, to play chicken politics, is the way that they have governed," Larson said. "They haven't done a thing. That is why the institution has its lowest rating in its history, because they don't believe in this process." [HuffPost]

CLINTON'S DOCTORS EXPECT A FULL RECOVERY - AP: "Doctors treating Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a blood clot say the clot formed in her head but they stress that they are confident she will make a full recovery. In an update Monday on Clinton's condition, her doctors say the blood clot did not result in a stroke, or neurological damage. The clot is located in the vein in the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear. Clinton's doctors say that to help dissolve the clot, they are treating her with blood thinners. They say she will be released once the medication dose has been established. In their update, the doctors say the 65-year-old secretary of state is making excellent progress and is in good spirits." [AP]

PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST BIDS YOU GLAD TIDINGS - HuffPost Hill's own Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist took a break from preparing for the New Year's Eve party in his panic room (those urine-filled Mason jars won't dust themselves!) to send us this very Tipper Gore-y update: "To Chairman Rockefeller's staff: I humbly request that you request an update to this outdated Harvard study on MPAA ratings creep. To the NRSC Research Dept: Please compile a list of donations in Hollywood zip codes. Let's work in a bipartisan manner in 2013! Best (that's for you Eliot), The PSLGOPL." Thanks, PSLGOPL! We hope you finally got that V-chip installed!

BECAUSE IT'S NEW YEAR'S EVE AND YOU'RE READING THIS - The most adorable, most heart-melting, most opposite-of-everything-that-is-transpiring-in-the-Capitol-complex videos of the year. Hang in there, everyone.

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