With the House set to vote this afternoon on Republicans' "Plan B" for avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff, the questions that have been asked every day for weeks are being asked yet again, with added urgency:
Are we headed over that "cliff" of automatic spending cuts, tax increases and expiring job benefits? Or are President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, closer to a deal than they're letting on in public?
On Morning Edition, NPR's Mara Liasson said the answers may be yes, and yes.
"Either we're one step closer to the cliff or this is just part of the 'two steps forward, one step backward' process that Congress and the White House have to go through," she told host David Greene. Both sides, she added, may just need to show they're "fighting as hard as they can before they make the ultimate compromise." So, Republicans have put forward their Plan B and the White House has threatened to veto it (though the odds seem low that it would be passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate).
There's even talk, Mara said, about going "over the cliff a little bit" — for a few days or so after Jan. 1 — before an ultimate compromise.
And what a compromise might look like is taking shape, she pointed out. Boehner has proposed increases in revenues (a.k.a. taxes) of about $1 trillion by allowing Bush-era tax cuts on income of more than $1 million a year to expire. Boehner's also proposed about $1 trillion in spending cuts.
Meanwhile, Mara noted, Obama has proposed revenue increases of about $1.3 trillion — by letting those Bush-era tax cuts expire on income of more than $400,000 a year — and spending cuts of about $930 billion.
As for today's vote, here are some of the morning's other stories:
— "A House vote on the plan, scheduled for Thursday, poses a major political test for Boehner's leadership team, which is pitching it as a vote of confidence and a way for Republicans to extract more concessions from Obama in negotiations over government spending and taxes." (The Washington Post)
— Boehner's brief statement Wednesday about the scheduling of today's vote, "suggested confidence that Republican leaders would have the votes to pass his plan. But lawmakers who were counting votes for the leadership said the tally was short, and House leaders were adding provisions to the speaker's bill to mollify dissidents." (The New York Times)
— "GOP leadership is considering attaching a package of spending cuts to ride alongside Boehner's tax rate bill. Republican lawmakers are skittish about voting on allowing taxes to snap to near 40 percent for millionaires without paring back federal spending." (Politico)
Update at 12:30 p.m. ET: GOP Plan Is "Non-starter" In The Senate, Reid Says:
As we said earlier, it's unlikely Plan B would pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., just called it a "non-starter."
Update at 11:20 a.m. ET: Cantor Predicts Passage:
"We are going to have the votes" to pass Plan B in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., just told reporters. He also said the House will not go into recess after today's vote.