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Fiscal Cliff Talks Face Test as Speaker Meets Caucus

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Boehner will meet with his rank and file Tuesday to outline the fiscal cliff negotiations.

A third aide said Republican morale is low. “Republicans know we’re gonna get hammered,” this aide said. “We just want it over with.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he expects the chamber to reconvene on Dec. 26 — the day after Christmas — to wrap its work for the 112th Congress.

“It appears that we’re going to be coming back the day after Christmas to complete work on the fiscal cliff and a few other leftover items,” the Nevada Democrat said Monday.

It was the quintessential Reid-like threat; the majority leader often uses the specter of weekend or holiday work to try to corral colleagues into action. But with so much left to be resolved between the speaker and the president, if their differences can be resolved at all, it seems unlikely that Reid’s words were a bluff.

Though the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day might be spoiled for overworked staffers, the likely session is the strongest indicator yet that top congressional negotiators have hope for agreement. Talks had appeared to be at an impasse as recently as a week ago.

The Senate largely has been in a holding pattern as the House GOP and administration try to forge a deal, and though there is some question about whether there would be enough Republican support for an agreement that raises taxes, many rank-and-file GOP senators have already indicated they’d be willing to break from the party.

“If Boehner can get something passed in the House, I don’t see why it can’t get passed in the Senate,” one top Republican Senate aide said.

With the deadline pressure only intensifying, it’s possible lawmakers who have for the most part been kept out of the loop will be more demonstrative with their frustration over the lack of information or way forward. Both parties have caucus meetings slated for Tuesday afternoon.

At the White House daily briefing Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was equally opaque about the status of the talks, noting that “conversations continue” and that a plan from Obama is still the “only” one that protects the middle class from bearing too much of the burden of deficit reduction.

Carney ducked questions about whether the president could move off of his position that tax rates must go up for those with an annual income of more than $250,000. There historically has been some division in the Democratic Party on this point, with members such as Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., pushing publicly last year on a $1 million threshold as well.

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