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Road Map: Still No Agenda for Lame Duck

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans votes on issues that play to the Democratic base but aren’t likely to win enough support to clear Congress and reach the president.

“We could do things a lot faster if Republicans wouldn’t filibuster everything,” a Democratic leadership aide said Monday. “Our hope [was] that after the elections, things would change. But they haven’t,” the aide added.

Even on the issue of what to do with the tax cuts, partisanship is likely to carry the day, at least in the short term.

Reid and Pelosi are both set on pursuing at least one vote on legislation extending only the middle-class tax cuts, which has long been the priority of Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill, in order to put members of both parties on record. The idea, according to Democratic aides in both chambers, is to choreograph as many votes as possible with Republicans voting against middle-class tax cuts so candidates can use those votes against the GOP in the 2012 election cycle.

After that, however, things become less clear. Reid and his colleagues are hoping today’s nearly four-hour, closed-door caucus meeting will yield a strategy on the tax issue. Several Democratic aides predicted that while Reid has committed to holding a vote on the middle-class-only legislation and a GOP version extending all the tax cuts, he could pursue a number of compromise bills that fall between the two.

One option would be to offer a series of bills that incrementally raise the income level defining middle class from $250,000. A second option would be a bill that permanently extends the middle-class cuts — but only extends them for top earners for two or three years.

The rest of the House’s schedule remains in flux as lawmakers scramble to wrap up their work for the year. One item that seems destined for attention is child nutrition. Later this week, the House is slated to send that bill, which has been a priority of first lady Michelle Obama, to the president for his signature.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

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