Updated with McConnell spokesman at 11:10 am EST
The temperature outside in Washington today is chilly.
Indoors it’s boiling.
“If we go over the cliff… it could have been avoided by a single vote” of the House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at the start of the Senate session this morning.
The clock is running on any tax and spending deal by midnight Dec. 31, the majority leader said. “I don’t know time-wise how it can happen now.”
He served in the House, he noted. It used to be run by a majority, he said. Now, he complained, House Speaker John Boehner is demanding a majority of his own majority party to approve anything.
“The American people, I don’t think understand, the House of Representatives is not being represented by the House of Representatives,” Reid said. It is being run as a “dictatorship” of the speaker.
“John Boehner seems more concerned about keeping his speakership,” said Reid, calling it “obvious what’s going on.” The speaker, he said, is waiting until Jan. 3, when a new Congress convenes, and when he is re-elected speaker — before moving forward on any talk and spending talks.
“The speaker… can’t pass much of anything over there.”
Boehner maintains it’s up to the Senate to take the next step.
The president telephoned legislative leaders on his way out of Hawaii. He was returning to Washington by noon.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to make remarks on the Senate floor mid-afternoon.
“Last night, the President called Sen. McConnell (the first Democrat to do so on the fiscal cliff since Thanksgiving) and other leaders to discuss the need for the Senate to act,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said in an e-mail. “The Leader is happy to review what the President has in mind, but to date, the Senate Democrat majority has not put forward a plan. When they do, members on both sides of the aisle will review the legislation and make decisions on how best to proceed.”