Thursday 'cliff' notes: Pro forma in the House; FISA in the Senate

House GOP leaders indicated on Wednesday that they are done taking up fiscal cliff bills, and will wait for the Senate to act on House-passed legislation.

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The House has approved a bill extending all current tax levels, and one that would replace the current spending cuts with language that cuts entitlement programs and spares defense spending. But Senate Democrats have so far said they will not look at these measures.

Instead, Senate Democrats argue that the Senate passed a bill in July that would extend current tax rates on income below $250,000, and that the House should consider this measure. But House Republicans say that bill has technically not made it over to the House, and that it has a "blue slip" problem because it contains revenue measures that did not originate in the House.

Republicans said they are continuing to try to reach an agreement with Democrats off the floor, which means the House schedule could be subject to a sudden change, including possible weekend work. Republicans have said they would give House members a 48-hour notice if they need to return, but as of Wednesday, leaders had not given this notice.

The 2 p.m. pro forma session could also see another attempt by Democrats to seek recognition and call on the House to take up the Senate bill.

In the meantime, the Senate meets at 10 a.m. to work on a bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Senators are scheduled to hold several hours of debate on H.R. 5949, the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act. The bill would extend for five years the ability of U.S. intelligence authorities to surveil terrorists overseas without first getting permission from a court.

The House approved this bill back in September in a 301-118 voyte that split Democrats. The Senate could hold a procedural vote on the bill late Thursday.

The Senate may also resume debate on a supplemental spending bill to pay for Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts, which continues to split the two parties. A procedural vote on this bill is also possible Thursday.