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Sen. Charles E. Schumer signaled Wednesday that a post-Christmas Senate session to handle any agreement on a package to avert the fiscal cliff is becoming inevitable.
The New York Democrat said that some senators plan to head to Hawaii on Saturday to attend the funeral service for the late Democratic Sen. Daniel K. Inouye who died Monday. The service is scheduled to take place on Sunday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
Though President Barack Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, gave dueling press conferences Wednesday that cast doubt on whether a deal on the fiscal cliff is possible before the new year, Schumer sounded optimistic.
“They’re not that far apart,” he said of the positions taken by the White House and House GOP leaders in the negotiations on a year-end tax and spending package. “If they were to come to an agreement, say on Friday, God willing, they could write the stuff over the Christmas break, and then we’d have to come back before the New Year and pass it.”
In the most plausible scenario, the Senate could come back into session late on Dec. 26 or on Dec. 27.
While the news may be welcome to many on Capitol Hill because it would mean they could take a few days off for Christmas, the same can not be said for policy staffers and those in offices involved in getting any deal into legislative language, including legislative counsel, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, said it has been his understanding that the negotiations had largely stalled after Obama and Boehner traded proposals earlier this week. Still, he said he remains hopeful.
“As you know, the speaker suspended negotiations with the president earlier this week. My understanding is the two sides haven’t spoken since Monday,” Schumer said. “I don’t think anybody should get too dispirited, however. It always looks darkest before the dawn.”
Schumer made his comments at a news conference with Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, one of the leaders of the Senate’s liberal wing on economic issues. The duo convened the media availability to criticize Boehner’s decision to push his “plan B” — a bill to ensure that taxes do not go up on anyone making less than $1 million a year.
“Let’s be clear, Speaker Boehner’s ‘plan B’ is just the latest die-hard effort protect as many wealthy Americans as possible from the tax increase that kicks in on Jan. 1,” Harkin said at the press conference.