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It's Friday before the big Christmas weekend, and I'm writing a Today in Congress. If this isn't War, I don't know what is.

Getting this straightened out should take all of about ten minutes on the floor today. But there's actually some difference of opinion about just how to get the measure they need to the floors of the respective houses, and just which one needs to do what, and when.

Who goes first and what they do depends on who you talk to. In one scenario, the House moves first. In another, it's the Senate.

Here's how the House-first fix goes:

1. Some poor sap who's had to hang around in DC all this time will introduce a new two-month extension bill (including UI and the Medicare "doc fix"), and then ask unanimous consent that all the rules that would normally preclude its immediate consideration be waived, and that the bill be considered passed.

2. Barring any objection, that will do the trick for the House. The bill then goes to the Senate.

3. The Senate convenes and pulls the same trick, taking up the House bill and passing it by unanimous consent. That clears it for the White House and the President's signature.

As part of the deal, Democrats in the House and Senate agree to appoint conferees to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the old bill, H.R. 3630, probably with the aim of emerging with a full-year plan that can pass both houses. They'd have the two months during which today's new bill is effective to get that job done.

And here's the Senate-first play:

Senate leaders plan to pass the two-month payroll-tax-cut package by unanimous consent shortly after 9:30 a.m. when the upper chamber convenes for a previously scheduled pro forma session.

The unanimous consent agreement will make passage of the proposal contingent on the House sending over a bill identical to the legislation being held at the Senate desk.

In other words, some poor sap Senator asks unanimous consent to take up and pass a Senate vehicle containing the language of the Reid-McConnell compromise bill that was used to amend H.R. 3630 last week, plus a new and agreed-upon technical accounting fix requested by Republicans in the days since.

But it's not entirely clear to me from this description how having the Senate approve a bill and hold it at the desk enables the House to pass the same bill. They can adopt the identical language, but unless the Senate sends the bill over to the House (putting the House "in possession of the papers"), whatever the House sends the Senate will be a separate bill. Though I suppose anything's possible with unanimous consent. The Senate has, in the past few weeks, taken actions (presumably by unanimous consent) notwithstanding not having received the papers from the House.

Why would it be important (or "important") for the Senate to go first? Well for one thing, it's a legitimate gripe at this point that no one trusts the Republican House to follow through on a deal. But perhaps more to the point, Democrats want this to be their bill. They broke the Republicans on this one, and they want to be the ones to put the winning plan (not a value judgment on the plan itself) forward.

A few loose ends:

Why do they have to have a new bill? Why can't they just fix the old one?

This is actually the fastest way to fix the problem. When the House rejected the Senate amendment to H.R. 3630 earlier this week, it sent the bill back to the Senate. That put the Senate in possession of the papers, and meant that the next move belonged to them. But the only move left for the Senate to make would be to appoint conferees, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was refusing to do that until Republicans at least locked the temporary extension in place. The Senate couldn't just pass the papers back to the House and tell them to try again. Nor can the Senate just start amending the old bill again. They've had their shot at it, and none of the text has changed since they did. The only question they can be asked about H.R. 3630 at this point is whether they'll agree to a conference or not.

In addition, to at least some of the players, having H.R. 3630 available as a vehicle for negotiations on a longer-term package makes some sense. So the easiest thing to do became introducing a new vehicle, filling it up with most of the same stuff, making it last for two months, and then using unanimous consent to move it along, in parallel to H.R. 3630.

Can something still go wrong?

Absolutely. Today's new bill will have to move by unanimous consent if it's going to get done before Christmas, and without actually calling the membership back to DC to vote. But unanimous consent requires just what it sounds like. That is, if anyone at any of the points in the process where unanimous consent is asked should stand and say, "I object," the procedure gets blown up. That won't by itself kill the bill, but it would mean that everyone would have to fly back to Washington during the holidays, and they'll likely want to kick the shit out of the a-hole who opened his mouth.

That's why you'll see a lot of Twitter and Facebook-based grumbling and gnashing of teeth from Teabagger Republicans about how terrible this whole thing is, but probably won't hear a peep out of them to actually stop it. Not only will all your colleagues be pissed off at having to interrupt their philandering and/or quality time with their families, but the big mouth himself will have to get back to DC and show up at work in order to object. And did I mention that today is Friday?!

What if someone does object?

Well, no big deal, really. Except that everyone will be mad. What will happen is that the proceedings will stop, the House will be summoned back to Washington, and a vote will be scheduled for early next week. Then everyone will vote outvote the objector, and decide later just how mad they're going to be, and how to manifest that anger with their obnoxious colleague.

What about the Keystone XL pipeline thing?

I'm not sure. That's already in H.R. 3630, and was a part of the Reid-McConnell deal. And it sounds like the administration was generally unconcerned with it, at least in terms of whether it would sway their decision-making on approving the pipeline. So if the administration doesn't care (because it's going to do what it's going to do, regardless of this deadline nonsense), then I guess they might stick it into this new bill as well, or keep it in the new Reid-McConnell vehicle. But Republicans could, for the sake of expediency, leave it out of today's bill, rely on its presence in H.R. 3630, and hope for the "best" (from their perspective) in conference negotiations. However they decide to carry it forward, it almost certainly will go forward, since it's the face-saving device McConnell is clinging to in all of this, even as the White House insists it'll be ineffective in forcing a policy change.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Does it take a full term for Congresspeople (6+ / 0-)

    to understand these arcane, convoluted, nonsensical rules?  

    Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. --Mark Twain

    by SottoVoce on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:05:52 AM PST

    •  The puppies have to have their noses rubbed into (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TofG, live1, HarryParatestis


    •  Some of them never get it. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They rely on staff to tell them what's going on, right down to handing them scripts of parliamentary language to use on the floor.

      The truth is that most members don't spend any time there and never listen to debates or watch C-SPAN (and in truth, neither do their constituents). And if they do listen, it's certainly not to the parliamentary procedure.

      •  and yet, that very same procedure seems (0+ / 0-)

        to exist not to improve fairness, accountability or efficiency, but instead to parovide the kind of loopholes that can be seized upon to stop good legislation from happening.  Or am I wrong?

        Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. --Mark Twain

        by SottoVoce on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 08:58:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I actually found this pie recipe on the www today: (5+ / 0-)

    "So, am I right or what?"

    by itzik shpitzik on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:08:06 AM PST

  •  QUICK!!!.....Find me a hostage!! (4+ / 0-)
  •  I'm concerned about the pipeline. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Everybody is, of course.
    I think we need a summit between union leaders that are for the pipeline and the environmentalist who are against the pipeline, to come up with a comprehensive national energy plan that will, even if it doesn't allow us all to agree on everything, will allow us to chart a way forward that doesn't rip our common cause apart.
    Organized labor does have common cause with environmentalists, to develop a 21st century energy plan and infrastructure that rebuilds the middle class foundation of our economy.
    We should have some outreach to allies in Canada as well.

  •  Xmas policy-making (4+ / 0-)

    Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare."

    by annieli on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:13:55 AM PST

  •  What are the accounting adjustments? (5+ / 0-)

    Having programmed payroll packages before, I know it will be a minor matter to apply a FICA rate for a full year even if you start with one rate (6.2, which is what UC has apparently used in preparing its January payroll) and then have to back-and-fill. Existing programs should be able to accommodate a retroactive rate change and withhold the proper amounts to get back in line in February - except for terminated employees, who will be due refunds which may or may not be generated by existing code.

    What would be hell is if the Jan-Feb rate is 4.2 and the full year extension is not approved! Nobody is prepared for different rates applied to different months within the same calendar year. Of course, this puts all the pressure on the GOP in February to approve the full-year extension regardless of other provisions or wreak havoc on small (and large) businesses, making this the Application Programmer Full Employment Act of 2011.

    Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

    by Clem Yeobright on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:17:39 AM PST

    •  Note that CEOs and other executives (0+ / 0-)

      who hit the cap by Feb 29 will pay just 4.2% FICA, while people who never hit the cap will pay the Mar-Dec rate on 83% of their income.

      Is that not a rhetorical requirement that Mar-Dec be 4.2%, even if Rs get zero concessions on the next bill?

      Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

      by Clem Yeobright on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:41:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Keystone is most definitely in the proposal. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil S 33, Losty

    It's been directly mentioned by both McConnell and Boehner and there's no way they'd leave it out.

    No, we'll have a whole new set of hostages for the full year.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:18:08 AM PST

  •  It's blatantly clear from those headlines that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Setsuna Mudo

    Obama caves on everything!

    I support OWS. But that doesn't mean I support every dumb idea someone has about it.

    by kenlac on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:20:17 AM PST

  •  If anyone is going to object (6+ / 0-)

    it is going to be one of the new TeaBaggersentatives.

    They thrive off on pissing people off.

  •  The unanimous consent option means that the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Repubs are really not voting on the extension as far as I can tell, which leaves them an out - they can say technically that they refused to vote on it and held fast.  If this is so, I'd love to see a Dem object and force a real vote on the extension.  Stick it to 'em I say.

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell

    by accumbens on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:24:01 AM PST

    •  As much as I like this idea (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There's this:

      if anyone at any of the points in the process where unanimous consent is asked should stand and say, "I object," the procedure gets blown up. That won't by itself kill the bill, but it would mean that everyone would have to fly back to Washington during the holidays, and they'll likely want to kick the shit out of the a-hole who opened his mouth.

      Dems have their victory. Forcing the whole Congress to fly back to DC could give the GOP a talking point.... unless it's one of THEM that objects.

      Now that would be the best outcome of all.

      "Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

      by bear83 on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:29:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If Michele Bachmann doesn't object (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citizenx, bear83, skohayes, Setsuna Mudo

    she's done for with her base.

    Awww :-)

    The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

    by raboof on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:25:44 AM PST

  •  "I Object".. 2 Simple words.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    All it needs is One TeaBagger to say that..

    Or One Democrat to say that to get a recorded vote and make the House stand up, and get all the No's on record..

  •  Is it good politics for the President to hold (0+ / 0-)

    Keystone hostage until he gets a year long deal?

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 06:33:57 AM PST

  •  What Are The Odds... (0+ / 0-)

    ...that a Teapartyer throws a monkey wrench into the works?  I'm not a betting man like, Mitt but I'll put a penny down that one does.  Anyone want to give me odds?

  •  Baucus, Cardin, Reed, Casey, (0+ / 0-)

    Dems may just take Defeat out of the jaws of victory..

    Was Lieberman and Nelson unavailable?  

  •  Justice (0+ / 0-)

    A Democrat should stand on the House floor and object and force ALL OF THEM to come back off their wonderful holiday respite and vote. That'll teach them to play poker with the middle class.

  •  anyone hear when they are supposed to put this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to the floor today? kind of like to see it.

  •  Distracted by ads for available local singles-wha? (0+ / 0-)

    thought those were gone with my spiffy, thank you you wonderful person who gave me my gift sub.

    But those  ads go well with AdamB's diary on how a Penn judge has legalized casual prostitution.

    There's gonna be big changes in Penn soon I predict.

    'Wait, how are you voting sir? I bet I can make you change your mind...'

    well not, probably not, altho I'd sacrifice my pride for the right vote.

    Where do I apply?

    ..squinting all the while in the glare of a culture that radiates ultraviolet consumerism and infrared celebrity...Russell Brand

    by KenBee on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 07:01:25 AM PST

  •  And the wheels of justice, on they grind... (0+ / 0-)

    ... exceedingly slow and exceedingly fine.

    Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

    by TRPChicago on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 07:17:02 AM PST

  •  I hope somebody here can help me out (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clem Yeobright

    I talked to my dad on the phone this morning and he told me that one of the "add-ons"  to this legislation is a requirement that all new mortgages and re-financed mortgages after January 1st will now include an additional $15/month fee that goes to the federal government in order to help replenish the social security fund.

    My dad is a die-in republican and gets his news from fox, so I don't know if there is any truth to what he heard.

    I am considering a re-finance on my home in January or February and would really like to know if there is any truth to this.  Will there be an additional fee tacked onto monthly mortgage payments for new or re-financed mortgages after the first of the year?

    Thank you for your help.

    •  Here's the relevant part of the bill (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There is an increase in mortgage fees which is expected to cover the cost of the 2% cut in FICA collections.  The Dems preferred to use a millionaires' tax to effect this 'offset' - because we are now in a world where tax cuts have to be offset by increases in other taxes or spending cuts - but the Rs demanded this instead. It was this - or no tax cut.

      The fee is cited in terms of points, not a dollar amount, so your dad is 'simplifying', although he may be correct about the average effect.

      You're the mortgage-shopper; see if you get more out of this than I do.

      Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

      by Clem Yeobright on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 08:01:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  thank you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clem Yeobright

        I read that section and wasn't sure what 10 basis points means, and if the fee would be a one time fee, a yearly fee, or a monthly fee.

        I am considering a refinance through my credit union and have to determine if it is worth it in the long run.  It means going from 22 years of payments back to 30 years.  Even without the new fee it was about even on the total payback amount over the course of the loan.

        I'll get in touch with the loan officer at the cu and see if she can explain how it would affect my monthly payment.  I might be better off just staying with my current setup.

  •  A Belated THANK YOU! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Always appreciate your posts explaining the machanations of Congress, especially on this "WE WIN" day.

    Thanks a ton!

    "Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and ask, 'Why not?"

    by Doctor Who on Fri Dec 23, 2011 at 10:18:47 AM PST

  •  Can we talk about adjournment? (0+ / 0-)

    I read that the Senate is in pro forma session til Jan 23.  That can't be right as it violates the Constitution.  Now, why the f won't the Dems vote to adjourn so that BHO can make recess appointments?  

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