OVERNIGHT MONEY: House readies tax-bill vote

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Most Democrats said they oppose the measure while many Republicans declined to answer or said they were undecided, making votes difficult to count.

The Republican proposal has been lambasted by House and Senate Democrats and rejected by the White House, which said Wednesday it would veto the bill if it passed the House. The Senate would have to take up the bill first before it could reach President Obama's desk. 

The legislation deals only with the tax break and doesn't include any other provisions that lawmakers have talked about including in a deficit-reduction package or spending cuts. Yet.

Boehner held a minute-long press conference on Wednesday urging Obama to either let the bill go through Congress or "get serious soon about providing and working with us on a balanced approach." 

Meanwhile, Americans for Tax Reform, led by Grover Norquist, said the proposal would not violate its anti-tax pledge.

But conservative groups Heritage Action and Club for Growth expressed opposition because, they argue, Democrats have shown support for the bill in the past and that this step is merely a political ploy and not a solution. 

That stance fell in line with what most Democrats had to say, too. 

Obama called it "puzzling" that House Republicans had not warmed to his deficit-reduction package, suggesting that the GOP was placing its personal dislike for him above the interests of the nation.

"At some point there's got to be a recognition on the part of my Republican friends — take the deal," Obama said.

And House Democrats didn't show any cracks in their unity. 

Democrats said they expect a minimum number of defections on the plan, with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) saying he expected “very few” yes votes from his side of the aisle. 

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), a Blue Dog who has backed GOP tax proposals this year, said he was a no this time around and that he knew of just one fellow Blue Dog who was a yes. 

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been largely positive about the inroads made toward a broader deal, said the Plan B strategy was an act of desperation, warning GOP leaders that they'll have to find the votes within their own party to pass the measure.

"The Plan B will not pass as a result of Democratic votes," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. 

All the while, both sides were whipping their vote counts.

But the fiscal cliff and the Christmas holidays are drawing closer without a broader deal in sight. 

Still, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was more upbeat saying a grand deficit deal was still possible by the end of the year.

“I don’t think anybody should get too dispirited,” Schumer said. “It always looks darkest before the dawn."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that Senate Democrats allow a vote on Boehner's plan. 

As Boehner and the president continue to discuss another avenue forward, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) urged the president to push for a more “robust” deficit-reduction plan with more revenue than what has already been put on the table. 

But the black clouds loomed. 

The IRS's Steven Miller told the lawmakers that between 80 million and 100 million tax returns would not be filed on time in 2013 if lawmakers fail to pass legislation ensuring that the Alternative Minimum Tax does not expand to more middle-class families.

The lack of a solution also put the nation's credit rating agencies on alert with FitchRatings saying the United States would probably experience a second downgrade if the tax and spending issues aren't solved by year's end. 

WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR

Sandy help: The Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development will devote Thursday to discuss efforts to rebuild the Northeast following Hurricane Sandy with a new and improved group of witnesses as the $60.4 billion emergency supplemental languishes in the Senate. 

Expected to be on hand are Peter Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration, Yolanda Chavez from the Housing and Urban Development Department along with regional transit officials. 

Setting up the noms: The Senate Finance Committee will consider a pair of nominations on Thursday: William Schultz to serve as general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Christopher Meade, who has been nominated for the same position at the Treasury Department.

ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Initial Claims: The Labor Department releases its weekly filings for jobless benefits, a day ahead of November's job numbers.

Mortgage Rates: Freddie Mac is releasing weekly data on fixed-rate mortgages, which have been hovering around historic lows.  

GDP: The Commerce Department will release its third estimate of the nation's economic activity for the third quarter. The last estimate was 2.7 percent. 

Existing Home Sales: The National Association of Realtors releases November figures for sales of existing homes. Existing-home sales are completed transactions across a broad range of housing types, including single-family homes. 

Leading indicators: The Conference Board will release a batch of previously announced economic indicators for November: New orders, jobless claims, money supply, average workweek, building permits and stock prices.

FHFA Housing Price Index: The Federal Housing Finance Agency will release its measure of prices for October on single-family homes.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Labor to Obama: Back off Social Security

Leahy will not take Appropriations chair

— But Mikulski will 

— Coats to introduce $24-billion alternative Sandy emergency-funding package

— Senators want GAO to examine perks of 'too big to fail'

— UBS agrees to $1.5 billion fine in Libor scandal

— Treasury announces plans to end GM bailout

Catch us on Twitter: @VickoftheHill, @peteschroeder, @elwasson and @berniebecker3

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