Here’s what the Loop is reading today:

The ultimate “cliff” — Now here’s an incentive for congressional lawmakers to strike a deal — take away their paychecks unless they come up with a budget plan.

Vampire program — The story of one relatively small, obscure government program that refuses to die is a cautionary tale of how hard it is to cut spending... any spending.

Tortured humor — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) jokes that the Senate will allow waterboarding during the hearing for the nomination of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to be secretary of state. This clip of McCain’s quip is worth checking out, if only to see the reaction of Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who apparently doesn’t find torture jokes hilarious.

Today’s funny — Our favorite quote of the day: According to our colleague Dana Milbank, Tuesday’s inaugural lunch at the Capitol, overseen by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), was “the most audacious export of New York products since Gov. Eliot Spitzer arranged for a New York prostitute to meet him at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel.”