Senate to Consider Tax Cuts, DREAM Act in Day Packed With Votes

BY David Chalian  December 9, 2010 at 8:09 AM EDT

Supporters of the DREAM Act recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Supporters of the DREAM Act recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol on Wednesday. The bill would allow a path to citizenship for children who entered the country illegally. Photo by Bill Clark/Roll Call.

The Morning Line

The Senate will consider major pieces of legislation Thursday as the end of the lame-duck Congress, and the Democratic Party’s hold on both chambers, comes to an end.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may move to begin debate on President Obama’s deal on the Bush-era tax cuts. More Democrats are warming to the idea of extending the cuts, adding a payroll and estate tax cut, and extending unemployment insurance, as they have learned about the package’s possible positive effects on the economy.

White House budget director Jacob Lew and senior Treasury adviser Gene Sperling met with Senate Democrats to convince them to get behind the passage.

“Members are more open today as they read the analyses of this package,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., according to the Washington Post.

Democrats in the House of Representatives, on the other hand, aren’t budging so easily. The Post also reports that Democrats, who are angry with the deal to extend cuts for the wealthy and breaks on estate taxes, confronted Vice President Joe Biden as he lobbied them on the deal.

“There remain very serious reservations on the House side. I think that there’s still a very serious question whether this package can pass in the form it’s in now,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said after meeting with the vice president.

The Senate is also expected to hold a cloture vote (a vote to end debate and move to final passage) on the DREAM Act, a measure that would allow a path to citizenship for children who entered the country illegally. That measure passed in the House Wednesday night.

On top of that, Reid will decide how to approach an offer from Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is open to a compromise on legislation that would repeal the military’s ban on openly gay service members. If a deal is reached, a cloture vote on the defense bill — with the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” attached to it — may come to the Senate floor Thursday.

Talking Points Memo reported Wednesday night that Collins wants the tax measure debated first. She also said she could support cloture on the defense spending bill if Reid allowed for four days of debate on 15 amendments to the bill. Democrats may be able to pass the repeal if Collins and a few Republicans vote for cloture on the bill.

“I have urged the majority leader to postpone the vote … so that we could get the tax bill considered first — which I believe could be on the floor tomorrow — and completed by Saturday, and then move immediately to the DOD bill, but under a fair agreement,” Collins said, according to TPM.

The Senate is racing to finish business before it is scheduled to adjourn on Dec. 17.

WORSE OFF NOW?

Ronald Reagan made it the definitive question for the American electorate in future presidential elections. “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” he asked in 1980.

Bloomberg News posed that question in a new poll, and President Obama is unlikely to be pleased with the answer.

“More than 50 percent of Americans say they are worse off now than they were two years ago when President Barack Obama took office, and two-thirds believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.”

“The survey, conducted Dec. 4-7, finds that 51 percent of respondents think their situation has deteriorated, compared with 35 percent who say they’re doing better. The balance isn’t sure. Americans have grown more downbeat about the country’s future in just the last couple of months, the poll shows. The pessimism cuts across political parties and age groups, and is common to both sexes.”

“The negative sentiment may cast a pall over the holiday shopping season, according to the poll. A plurality of those surveyed — 46 percent — expects to spend less this year than last; only 12 percent anticipate spending more. Holiday sales rose by just under a half percent last year after falling by almost 4 percent in 2008.”

PRINCE OF PORK NO MORE

Democrats have been eager to remind reporters that the incoming House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, has been called the “Prince of Pork” because of all the federal money he’s been able to earmark for his home district.

Now that House Republicans have sworn off earmarks and tapped Rogers to head the committee that doles out the cash, he finds himself as “the enforcer of the moratorium.”

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl caught up with Rogers on Wednesday and questioned him about his readiness to change his ways.

POLITICO reports, however, that some Republicans are beginning to rethink the total ban on earmarks.

“[S]ome Republicans are discussing exemptions to the earmark ban, allowing transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and water projects. While transportation earmarks are probably the most notorious — think ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ — there is talk about tweaking the very definition of ‘earmark.’”

In addition to the Appropriations Committee, House Republican leaders approved the steering committee’s recommendation to have Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., head the Energy and Commerce Committee despite ranking member Rep. Joe Barton’s, R-Texas, attempt at the gavel.