December 27, 2012

President Barack Obama returns to Washington from Hawaii on Thursday. (Associated Press)

For the first time since the Plan B fiasco, there was a tiny hint of movement on the fiscal cliff this afternoon. Two updates: Barack Obama will meet with both House and Senate leaders of both parties tomorrow, and Speaker John Boehner has called the House back for a Sunday session. Does this mean a deal will be made before January 1? Probably not.

I see three possibilities, which I’ll take from least likely to most.

• It’s possible but very unlikely that Democrats have decided to cave on taxes, or at least tax rates. Unlikely because Democrats are supported so far in the polling that’s been done, because it’s difficult to see any reason why anything would have changed their position since last week and because it’s unlikely that Boehner’s announcement would follow from a Democratic cave.

• It’s somewhat more likely, but still not very, that Republicans have decided to cave, after going back to their districts and getting blasted — by key business constituents who don’t want to go over the cliff, and by everyone for the Plan B embarrassment. Still not likely, however.

• What is most likely is that everyone really knows that it’s easier to make a deal after January 1, but that no one wants to look as if they’re blocking it. In particular, once Obama flew back from Hawaii he needed something to do; that explains the White House meeting tomorrow. And once Obama was back, and with the Democratic Senate actually in session and conducting business, it was a potential public relations debacle to have the Republican House still enjoying their recess. So that explains the Sunday session.

To cover all bases: it’s possible, I suppose, that Obama and Boehner have been negotiating in secret and struck a fair and equitable deal that can pass the House and the Senate and be enacted into law, and we’ll learn about it sometime in the next few days. 

But my money is on the “look good until Wednesday when the real negotiating begins” possibility.