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Today in Washington – December 1, 2010

The President met with Congressional Leaders yesterday at the White House.  A path forward seemed to emerge on extending tax cuts for all Americans and the appropriations work for the year.  The problem with the outline of the deal vetted yesterday, is that the extension of tax cuts for 2 or 3 more years may come at too high of a price for conservatives.  The Senate has nothing on the agenda for today and the House will pass a short term Continuing Resolution (CR) for Senate consideration this evening.

The Senate has nothing on the schedule for today, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used a parliamentary maneuver to set up votes on two measures:  the DREAM Act, a bill dealing with the children of illegal immigrants, and the so called Public Safety Employee-Employer Cooperation Act, a bill imposing collective bargaining for firefighters and police in states that don’t currently have collective bargaining.  Both bills are controversial and many expect Reid to file cloture, setting up votes on the two matters later this week or early next week.  The House has votes scheduled on H.J. Res 101, a continuing resolution keeping the government running for a few more weeks, S. 3307, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and 21 votes on the Suspension Calendar.

The big news yesterday was the President’s bipartisan summit at the White House for purposes of negotiating a solution to the impasse on extending tax cuts.  The New York Times reported that a negotiating framework is in place.

With a negotiating framework in place, lawmakers said they could begin to see the contours of a potential outcome that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts temporarily while giving Democrats some concessions on unemployment compensation, the estate tax or other tax cuts that were included in the stimulus package and will also expire this year.

The Washington Post reports that Republican Senators may be willing to allow a vote on the New START Treaty in consideration for a deal on extending tax cuts for all for two or three years.

On Tuesday, according to people in the room, both sides engaged in the kind of cross-party dealmaking that seems to have faded away in today’s Washington. The participants emerged smiling and with a loose framework – though they did not outline it publicly – that could result in the temporary extension of all the tax cuts, as well as the ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, the continuation of unemployment benefits and funding for government operations into next year.

Conservatives should be deeply concerned that a deal may be cut on the New START Treaty and extending unemployment benefits with no offsets, because of Republicans fear of a government shut down.  They fear an impasse on a spending measure, either a Continuing Resolution funding the federal government into early next year or for the whole Fiscal Year 2011, that causes a government shut down.  The fear of a government shut down puts liberals in the drivers seat on the New START Treaty.  For more resources to understand the faults of the New START Treaty click here.

One bright spot in the Senate is a letter circulating today signed by all 42 members of the Republican Caucus to vote against any and all measures with the exeption of extending the tax cuts and appropriations, until an agreement can be reached on the tax issue.  Republicans sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid on November 29th pledging to block all legislation until this issue is resolved. 

From the letter:

For that reason, we write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.  With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities.  While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.

Basically Republicans have pledged to filibuster any and all legislation with the exception of the appropriations bills and a bill dealing with an extension of tax hikes.  Until those issues are resolved, expect no progress on the pending items of the DREAM Act, the public service officers collective bargaining bill, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” an extension of unemployment benefits and the New START Treaty.  Conservatives should be happy that Senate Republicans are saying no to any and all legislation until the Administration gets it’s act together on tax cuts and appropriations bills, yet a deal may be cut that includes the New START Treaty that has the potential to harm national defense.

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