After closing up shop with empty pockets and heads hanging, announcing earlier Monday night that negotiations had once again hit an impasse, resigning the country to the dreaded tumble over the “cliff,” the news broke around 9:00 pm EST that wiser heads had prevailed and a deal has been reached. Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats had a productive meeting and are currently waiting to hear when the House vote will happen. Accomplishing that before the midnight deadline did not happen, but there is leeway to vote early Tuesday morning.
As for how the accord was reached; according to The Huffington Post:
Under the deal brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Congress would extend the Bush income tax cuts below the $450,000 threshold, keep the estate tax threshold at $5 million and extend unemployment benefits. It would also temporarily delay the sequester — i.e., billions of dollars in across-the-board spending cuts — for another two months.
The deal still requires buy-in from members of both parties, and Biden was set to meet with Senate Democrats Monday night to try to sell them on the package. That could prove challenging given that key progressive groups, including the AFL-CIO, made it clear earlier Monday that they would oppose any deal that raised the income limit for extending the Bush tax cuts above $250,000.
Although the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev) and House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had long ago left the building, both apparently gave their approval of the deal via phone calls to President Obama.
It has been noted that tweaks and edits will likely be forthcoming in the light of day, and in the weeks and months to come, but the last minute deal just hours before the New Year’s Eve clock strikes midnight had significant drama, major plot twists, and a surprise ending; one the American people will gratefully celebrate as they ring in the new yaer.
UPDATE: 11:17 pm EST: VP Joe Biden just spoke to reporters; says he feels strongly that the House will vote before midnight. Seemed ebullient and confident of success: “I think we’ll get a very good vote tonight.” [Source: MSNBC]
UPDATE: 10:50 PM EST: Vice President Joe Biden has just concluded meeting with Senate Democrats; “no Democrats voiced strong disagreement.” They are now in a bit of a “waiting game” as the accord is being put into text. The House leaders have been kept in the loop; all staffers and ancillary workers are remaining on duty until a decision is made about a potential House vote tonight. [Source: MSNBC]