Congress sure can move quickly when it wants to.
Late yesterday, House Republicans caved to Democratic demands and agreed to accept a slightly-tweaked bipartisan compromise from the Senate. This morning, just to move the process along, the Senate preemptively approved the tweaked version by unanimous consent. Less than an hour later, the House took up that bill and it too passed it by unanimous consent.
And with that, the bill heads to President Obama for his signature. The White House took down its countdown clock this morning.
There was some question as to whether House passage would be this easy. Boehner told his members that if any of them objected, he’d hold an up-or-down vote on this bill next week — a vote that was very likely to pass the deal anyway — so rather than delay the inevitable, House Republicans bit their tongue, dropped the silly “Braveheart” routine, and let the two-month extension pass.
The next step is the arguably-more -difficult conference committee, which will be tasked with shaping a year-long extension. This morning, Democratic leaders — who seemed to be in a very good mood — announced which members would lead the negotiations.
Mr. Reid later announced his appointees to the conference committee: Senator Max Baucus of Montana and chairman of the Senate finance committee; Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island; Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, also named her appointees: Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan; Mr. Van Hollen; Representative Xavier Becerra and Representative Henry Waxman both of California and Allyson Y. Schwartz of Pennsylvania.
The conferees are expected to begin meeting during the winter break.
They’ll be trying to strike an agreement with several congressional Republicans, most of them have said they don’t want a payroll-cut extension no matter what concessions Democrats are willing to make.
But that’s a fight for January. In the meantime, today’s a good day.