House Dem: Members of Congress are with the people they love today — themselves

Blumenauer argued that the rare New Year's Eve session would not be necessary if members were allowed to vote on several proposals for saving money. He said these include using some revenue from the pending tax hike to fund tax reform, cutting defense spending, and reforms that will help trim entitlement spending.

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"If we ever got the chance to consider them in a fair and open debate on the floor of the House, we would find bipartisan support for each of these real saving options," he said.

Blumenauer predicted that some deal on the cliff would likely be reached, but only after the appropriate level of howling from members late today.

"The over-hyped fiscal cliff may well be upon us, and we will find $600 billion of deficit reduction with tax increases and spending cuts, and then there will be the howls that we're doing it too abruptly from some of the same people who demanded this system of expiring cuts and sequestration in the first place," he said.

Another Oregon Democrat, Rep. Peter DeFazio, predicted that one way around the tax portion of the fiscal cliff would be to wait until midnight tonight. That, he said, would allow members to make an easier vote to cut taxes — instead of voting to extend current tax rates — because marginal tax rates will rise at the end of today.

"So I think that's the best we can do for the American people," DeFazio said. "We transmogrify this bill with the magic of midnight, from one that would increase taxes on the job creators ... to one that actually gives tax cuts to 98 percent of Americans, something both sides can go home and brag about."

Other morning remarks on the floor made it clear there is still a wide disagreement over how to proceed. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) likely spoke for many Republicans when he argued that the key to a deal must involve real spending cuts.

"Washington is obsessed with spending someone else's money," Poe said. "It's the arrogance of power that Congress spends the people's money without regard to how this obsession affects those very people."

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) noted that while Democrats continue to argue that higher taxes are needed on the wealthy, Democrats chose not to raise taxes when they had full control of Congress in 2009 and 2010.

"Why would a Democrat Congress and White House say they want to tax the wealthy, but not do it?" he asked.

Several members who are leaving the House used the 9 a.m. hour to bid farewell. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) thanked his staff, and two others that lost their reelection bids, Russ Carnahan (Mo.) and Robert Dold (R-Ill.), offered brief remarks reflecting on their tenure in the House.

Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who was chosen to replace Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in the Senate, also gave a two-minute farewell to the House.

"We may not always agree on things, but we are here for a reason: to try to make this nation better," he said.