December wishes

Congress is back from Thanksgiving, and there are many indications it will not be leaving town much before Christmas.

Who will get what they want in the weeks ahead?

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First lady Michelle Obama wants a child nutrition bill. President Obama is pressing the Senate to pass an arms treaty with Russia. Republicans want to extend all the Bush tax cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is seeking to scrap the Pentagon’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and also wants to pass an immigration bill called the DREAM Act.

In Congress, however, you don’t always get what you want, and this December will confirm that. 

The debate over tax cuts and tax hikes will dominate the coming month. Democrats are still struggling to come up with a plan, which is a clear indication that they are playing defense on this issue. 

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has proposed lifting Obama’s threshold for raises from an income level of $250,000 a year to one of $1 million. Under the senator’s plan, millionaires would be the only ones who would get a tax increase.

It’s been an idea that Democrats considered before the election, but other congressional leaders have not endorsed Schumer’s proposal. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not budged from Obama’s blueprint, though it remains unclear if she will schedule a floor vote that retains the quarter-million level. If she does, it would probably pass the House, but it has no shot in the Senate.

Either way, the writing is on the wall and has been for months. Congress seems highly likely to extend all the tax cuts for a limited time. 

During a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who can speak more freely than his colleagues, said as much: “What’s likely to happen is there will be an extension of the tax cuts for everybody for a period of time. I don’t know what that might be. But it’s the wrong remedy for the country.”

One intriguing possibility would be for Obama to bend on tax cuts and Republicans to back off their opposition to the pending arms treaty with Russia. 

Nothing is ever done in a vacuum in the nation’s capital and before the month is out, there will be some major horse-trading between the parties.