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U.S. Senate Passes 'Fiscal Cliff' Bill, It's Now up to The House to Pass or Reject The Deal


Happy New Year (again)!

A pleased-looking Sen. Mitch McConnell (Courtesy the New York Times)

With just hours to go before the Jan 1. deadline, the White House and Senate Republicans have reportedly reached a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff."

Republican leadership has already "okay'd" the deal and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have allegedly signed off on it.

The deal would extend Bush-era tax cuts for family incomes below $450,000, according to the Associated Press.

"Income taxes go up for individuals making over $400K," writes ABC News' Jonathan Karl, "40% Estate tax kicks in at $5 million, indexed for inflation."

"Tax rates on cap gains and dividends go to 20 percent -- permanently," he adds.

Another part of the deal involves delaying the automatic spending cuts that were scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.

"Two month delay in the fiscal cliff spending cuts intended to give Congress more time for more comprehensive measure," reports CBS News' Mark Knoller.

However, it should be noted that postponing the automatic spending cuts (i.e. the "sequestration") for two months means that they will come up again for debate just as we again turn our attention to the debt ceiling.

"The US debt will now remain unchanged until the next 'deal' since debt ceiling was just breached," writers at Zero Hedge note.

Also, this from National Review's Robert Costa:

Vice President Joe Biden headed to Capitol Hill late Monday to meet with Senate Democrats and sell the plan. After arriving at the Capitol, Biden and Sen. Reid ignored reporters' shouted questions about whether a deal had been reached, Biden responding only, "Happy New Year."

GOP leaders are reportedly confident that the deal with pass in both chambers by wide margins.

But there are some things to keep in mind. First, although it seems that leaders in both parties are on board with the deal, it's unclear whether the "legislative language for [a] 'cliff' deal will be ready for Senate vote tonight or tomorrow," Knoller notes.

Second, even if the bill ​is approved the Senate (which it probably will be), the House is another matter. Many GOP members object to the income, estate, and capital gains tax increases.

UPDATE(S): Is the deal in jeopardy?

Speaker Boehner is reportedly nervous about how he will frame the deal so as to sell it to his caucus. But at least Rep. Pelosi feels comfortable with the deal:

And a little something else to consider:

UPDATE II: Hmmmm ...

You know what this means, right? It means that by attaching congressional pay to the bill, its architects have successfully put the fiscally-minded members of Congress in a position where a vote against the deal is a vote to increase their salaries. It's a tricky situation, to say the least.

UPDATE III: The Senate will vote tonight on the deal as soon as the Congressional Budget Office is finished scoring it, said Sen. Harry Reid.

"Nobody in senate dem meeting said they would be against it," writes NBC News' Chuck Todd. "There's no liberal revolt. Senate GOP may lose less than 10. Could get 80+ votes."

We hope for the sake of congressional leaders that someone told the CBO to say on call:

And in case you were wondering about that whole "dairy cliff" thing:


If this is the case, and all that's needed is for Boehner to get enough Republicans to vote on a House version of the Senate bill, then we have a deal. However, although the Speaker says the House will "honor its commitment to consider the [bill]" if it is passed by the Senate, he stressed that its passage is contingent upon a House review of the Senate deal.

"[U]ntil House reviews the Senate bill," Knoller reports, "[Boehner] can't say if House will accept it or return it with amendments."

UPDATE IV: Well, it's midnight and there has been no vote in the Senate. So there's that. We've officially fallen off the so-called "fiscal cliff."

And this from the AP's Andrew Taylor:

According to Fox News' Ed Henry, the CBO reports that the Senate deal contains $620 billion in new tax hikes and only $15 billion in spending cuts. Do the math on that one.

Where we stand now (12:45 a.m. ET): Congress missed the deadline (sending us over the "fiscal cliff" [for now]), new tax hikes grossly outweigh spending cuts, early reports indicate the Senate bill might not make it through the House, and they only managed to put off the "sequester" for two months.

UPDATE V: Legislatively speaking, we're ​not over the "fiscal cliff" yet. You see, as BuzzFeed's D.C. bureau chief John Stanton reminds us, because the Senate didn't gavel out yesterday, it's still ​technically Sunday for U.S. lawmakers. So,​technically, they haven't missed the "cliff" deadline.

Fun, right?

Oh, also, for those of you who are still awake, reports are coming in that the Senate will vote on the bill at around 1:40 a.m. ET.

UPDATE VI: The Senate reconvenes for a vote.

The U.S. Senate at 1:58 a.m. ET passed by a vote of 89-8 the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012." It's now up to the House to review the bill and see if they agree with it.

Among the senators who voted against the bill were Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mike Bennet (D-Colo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Tom Harkin (D-Ia.).

Surprisingly enough, Sens. Jeff Session (R-Ala.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) voted in favor of the deal.

Final Thought -- Considering the fact that U.S. lawmakers spent most of the day locked up in the Capitol Building haggling over the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012,” it's almost certain none of them actually read the bill.

This is getting to be a really bad habit.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image courtesy Getty Images. This post has been updated ... a lot.

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