In the Senate, courtesy of the Office of the Majority Leader:
Convenes: 8:15amHere come the cloture votes on the tax cut extensions. I don't know that there's much explanation necessary. There are two cloture motions pending. The first vote taken will be to invoke cloture on an amendment to the House version of the bill, which was itself a complete substitute amendment for the previous, Senate-amended text of H.R. 4853. Hence, a motion to concur in the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 4853 with... another amendment.
By unanimous consent, at 10:30am Saturday, December 4, the Senate will proceed to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Reid motion to concur with the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R.4853, with the Baucus amendment #4727 [link] (tax cut extension for those making up to $250,000, plus several additional items such as UI extension, AMT relief, estate tax, 1099 repeal, making work pay credit, and others).
If cloture is not invoked, the Senate would immediately proceed to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Schumer amendment #4728 [link] (tax cut extension for those making up to $1 million, plus several additional items such as UI extension, AMT relief, estate tax, 1099 repeal, making work pay credit, and others).
The time from 8:30am until 10:30am will be equally divided and controlled between the Leaders or their designees.
And if cloture fails? They'll move to a cloture vote on essentially the same thing, except that this time the amendment being offered will be on extending the tax cuts on the first $1 million in income, instead of the first $250K.
If both fail, well, that'll be it for the day. Though you can expect Harry Reid to change his vote to no, so that he'll have the right to call for reconsideration of the vote later on. Why? Senate rules allow for a Senator on the prevailing side of a vote to ask for reconsideration. And asking for reconsideration of a cloture vote is a faster way to take a second bite at the apple (if that's what you want to do) than filing a second cloture motion. That's because cloture motions have to "ripen" before you're allowed to vote on them. That's why they're having these votes on a Saturday instead of having taken them yesterday. Yesterday, they were still ripening.
If one or the other of the cloture motions are adopted, there'll be up to 30 additional hours of debate on whichever amendment cloture was invoked on, and then a vote on the amendment itself. And after that? Back to the House, which will have to vote on... a motion to concur in the Senate amendment to the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 4853.
So what ever happened to the supposed deal for having four votes rather than two? Well, apparently that deal -- which would have included two Republican amendments that would have offered the choice of either a temporary or a permanent extension of all the cuts -- fell apart when a Republican objected to it at the last minute, leaving a surprised and embarrassed Mitch McConnell at the table empty-handed.
Why would a Republican object to a deal offering the minority an equal number of amendments on the bill, each aimed at doing exactly what they supposedly wanted? Because someone in the Republican Conference thinks both of the Democratic amendments will fail on their cloture votes, and Dems will be embarrassed by their inability to settle this situation, and then House Republicans will be free to write the extension bill they way they want it come January. And they'll make the extension retroactive to January 1, and look like heroes.
Why would a Republican make a surprise objection at the last minute and embarrass Mitch McConnell like that? Because Mitch McConnell hasn't been the Republican Leader for at least the last year. Jim DeMint is the real Senate Minority Leader, and he plays harder ball than McConnell does. He just showed Mitch who's boss by pulling the rug out from under him, and reminded Republicans that the source of their power is not their ability to use procedure to leverage deals, but their ability to leverage procedure to prevent any from being made while Democrats control the White House and Congress.
It's time to stop trying to understand Republicans in terms of figuring out what they want and trying to find middle ground. If "what they want" were even really of interest to Republicans at this point, then they'd have been over the moon at having a legitimate shot at passing an amendment to make all the tax cuts permanent today. But they walked away from that (as they walked away from a legitimate shot at passing both 1099 repeal and a $39 billion stimulus rescission earlier this week, totally abandoning their "tax cuts don't have to be paid for" rhetoric in the process) because "what they want" at this point is for Democrats to be seen losing as often as possible, on as many things as possible.
Then again, maybe that's why Obama has seemed so interested in getting to the Republican position on these extensions. If he can get them in place now, it's a story about a Democratic President working with Republicans to cut a deal on taxes. If he puts up a fight for a middle class-only extension but gets handed a defeat in the Senate (thanks in no small part to conservative Dems), only to see the same or similar Republican deal get handed to him as a list of demands come January, it's a story about a Democratic President weakened and forced to accept Republicans terms on taxes.
So, enjoy the show. Happy bipartisanship hunting, everybody!