OVERNIGHT MONEY: Fate of 'Plan B' in doubt

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It is possible that tacking on the sequester bill during a House Rules Committee hearing on Wednesday night might steer enough "no" or "leaning no" Republicans to support the two-pronged package. 

Over the past couple of days, The Hill polled lawmakers and found that about 25 Republicans could defect, likely leaving Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) short of the votes he would need to pass it. 

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday predicted Plan B would pass.

Hitting the floor to speak for the first time since his return from the campaign trail, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delivered a strong defense of the proposal.

The vote is set for some time after 8 p.m. 

So, do the results of the Plan B vote bring President Obama and Boehner back to the negotiating table to discuss a broader tax-spending-cut agreement over a cup of eggnog and plate of cookies? 

Or does it force the hand of Senate Democrats who reiterated, quite strongly, ahead of the vote that there is no way they will take up either bill?

Boehner positioned himself to call the Democrats' bluff.

"I am not convinced at all that when the bill passes the House today that it will die in the Senate," he said. "At some point the Senate has to act."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill would never reach the floor of his chamber. 

He blasted Boehner for wasting time "on a number of pointless political stunts."

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) accused the GOP of trying to sneak in the dismantling of the Wall Street overhaul.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there is no better outcome for Obama than for taxes to go up on everybody.

“For President Obama, there is no better outcome than for taxes to go up on everybody — everybody,” McConnell said on the floor Thursday. “Why? Because the only way to pay for the big government this president wants is by raising taxes on everybody — the super-rich, the rich, middle class, lower class, you name it.”

Lawmakers have been working on a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year, when the Bush-era tax rates expire and sequestration takes effect. 

Democrats have called for extending the Bush-era rates for those making less than $250,000 a year, while Republicans have remained steadfast in their argument that raising taxes on anyone harms the economy.

FreedomWorks, a prominent Tea Party group, said Thursday that it now opposes the tax bill, just a day after signaling support.

But then the U.S. Chamber of Commerce threw its support behind the measure because it, at the very least, avoids the "fiscal cliff."

We will see what happens shortly, and how that affects the congressional schedule in the days ahead. 

LOOSE CHANGE

Get the ball rolling: The National Retail Federation (NRF) argued Thursday that any progress that Congress can make on providing certainty for consumers leading into the final shopping days before Christmas would be welcomed. 

“Although this may not be the perfect solution to the fiscal crisis, what’s important is that Congress provide certainty going into the new year on tax issues that will impact every American," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. 

“Worries over the economy have already affected consumers during the holiday season. Worries coupled with actual tax hikes and spending cuts add up to a disaster our economy cannot afford."

NRF has not taken a position on specific details of a fiscal-cliff bill, but says action will help assure the public that lawmakers are addressing the issue with the year-end deadline approaching on a horde of tax and spending issues.

“There are a number of issues facing the economy, retailers and consumers that require a commitment beyond the fiscal cliff,” Shay said. “We need to avoid going over the fiscal cliff, but Congress and the White House also need to develop long-term plans that will restore consumer confidence so that the business world can go back to investing capital and creating jobs.”

New assignments: House Republicans and Democrats got down to the business of making committee assignments for newly elected and current members on Thursday. 

For the Democrats: The House Agriculture Committee added four newly elected members: Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.), Ann McLane Kuster (N.H.), Gloria Negrete McLeod (Calif.) and Filemon Vela (Texas).

Budget: Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.) and David Cicilline (R.I.) and incoming freshman Denny Heck of Washington.

Financial Services: The panel is adding six incoming freshmen to its roster: Bill Foster (Ill.), Dan Kildee (Mich.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), John Delaney (Md.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joyce Beatty of Ohio.

Small Business: Rep.-elect Grace Meng of New York.

For the Republicans, Financial Services Chairman-elect Jeb Hensarling (Texas) announced his leadership team: Rep. Gary Miller (Calif.), who will serve as vice chairman; Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), who will serve in the newly created position of committee whip; Rep. Randy Neugebauer (Texas), chairman of the subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity; Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), chairwoman of the subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit; Rep. Scott Garrett (N.J.), chairman of the subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises; Rep. Patrick McHenry (N.C.), chairman of the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; and Rep. John Campbell (Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy Subcommittee.

ECONOMIC INDICATORS 

Personal income: The Commerce Department releases November figures that measure income from all sources. The largest component of total income is wages and salaries, which is estimated using payrolls and earnings data from the employment report.

Durable orders: The Department of Commerce releases its November report measuring the dollar volume of orders, shipments and unfilled orders of durable goods, which are goods intended to last three or more years. Orders are considered a leading indicator of manufacturing activity, and the market often moves on this report despite the volatility and large revisions that make it a less-than-perfect indicator.

Michigan Sentiment: Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan will release its final measure of consumer sentiment for December.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Ryan objects to Dems' Hurricane Sandy bill

Schumer threatens Sandy bill naysayers

— Cottle tapped as Senate Finance staff director

— Liberal Democrats say chained CPI is a deficit deal breaker — almost

— Agencies warn federal employees to prepare for ‘fiscal cliff’ cuts

— Existing-home sales hit three-year high

— Frank calls for criminal charges on Wall Street's bad actors

— Claims for first-time unemployment benefits rose by 17,000

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