Fiscal cliff deal could elude Congress

As the Senate returns to work on Thursday morning and President Obama retuns early from a Christmas vacation in Hawaii, the latest five day break from Washington, D.C. does not seem to have produced any way forward on the tax and budget impasse known as the fiscal cliff.

"The lines of communication remain open," said Speaker John Boehner in a statement issued Wednesday, which made clear the GOP leadership won't summon House members back to Washington unless the Senate acts on a fiscal cliff bill first.

"The House has acted on two bills which collectively would avert the entire fiscal cliff if enacted," said the Speaker, channeling a little Schoolhouse Rock on how a bill becomes a law.

"Those bills await action by the Senate," said Boehner.

Democrats meanwhile groused about the Speaker not calling the House back into session to work on a fiscal cliff legislation.

"POTUS is on his way to DC. Senate is too. Where is the Speaker!?" wrote Rep Joe Courtney (D-CT) on Twitter.

"I'm disappointed," chimed in Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who tweeted that the House should be back as well.

"The fiscal cliff is a cliffhanger of the president & senate's own making," countered Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO) in her own social media post.

Republicans feel like the next step is up to Democrats in the Senate, as the GOP argues that they passed and sent the Senate bills that would deal with the fiscal cliff - but the Senate has not taken up those measures.

Democrats counter that the Senate has passed a bill that would extend the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, but the House has not acted on that legislation.

While that is true, the bill has some constitutional issues, because that Senate plan did not originate as a revenue related bill in the House, so it would be "blue slipped" in the House and blocked.

And so, we wait.

Part of me is very pessimistic that anything will get done, but part of me also knows that the Congress will try to pull a rabbit out of the hat before New Year's - or at least something they will try to call a rabbit.

Can the Senate pass anything? Will there be a filibuster?  Will the House even return?  Will we go over the cliff and just try to solve this in 2013?

So many questions, so little time.

Maybe the best question of all was posed by my daughter, who was puzzled as to why I had to be chasing after Congress during Christmas week.

"Why didn't they finish their work?" she asked with an innocent air, sounding much like Cindy Lou Who asking the Grinch as to why he was taking her family's Christmas tree.

Maybe it is the time for my own "Plan B," which would involve taking my three kids to work, giving them each a microphone and a tape recorder, slapping a press pass on their shirts and sending them into the hallways to torment some elected officials.

Stay tuned.

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