House of Representatives Will Try to Pass “Plan B,’ at Some Point Today

The lurching, wheezing progress toward the fiscal cliff so closely resembles the final days of the debt limit battle that it’s starting to get ridiculous. One of the House GOP’s last moves, in that fight, was the passage of a conservative, dead-in-the-Senate debt limit hike. Republicans had been ready to pass Cut, Cap, and Balance. It rose the debt limit only by including a Balanced Budget Amendment, spending caps at 18 percent of GDP, and cuts as large as the overall hike. But Boehner et al tried to corrall the votes for a less-extreme plan. They spent days. They finally gave up close to midnight, and the next day agreed to rejigger the “compromise” in a way that saved conservative face.

Smash cut to this morning. Republicans now say they will pass “Plan B,” which has been split into two bills. The Permanent Tax Relief for Families and Small Businesses Act of 2012 extends all of the Bush tax rates, but applies the old top rate – 39.6 percent to income over $1 million. The Spending Reduction Act of 2012 replaces the “sequester” with cuts that don’t affect defense spending.

But they won’t vote on this until tonight. Sometime. Current thinking: 7:30 p.m. or so. Why? Look to Erick Erickson, who says that 35 Republicans are currently “no” votes. Republicans can only lose 23 votes and pass either bill – any more, and they need some Democrats to vote with them.

Shortly after 11 a.m. today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called reporters into a hallway near the chamber to discuss the plan. We were standing about a hundred paces away from the Capitol rotunda, where the late Sen. Daniel Inuoye was lying in state, when Cantor announced that both bills would pass. But they can’t pass the Senate.