In case you think our congressional teabaggRs are about anything but posturing and prevarication, consider this: although a cliff-avoidance deal, for better or for worse, seems to have been reached, House Rs have decided to delay a vote until after midnight, at which time the Bush tax cuts will expire. Why? Because then, in agreeing to the deal, they'll be voting for a tax cut, not a hike. Get it?
You'll recall that House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" failed because GOP lawmakers perceived it as voting for a tax increase. Yes, it froze lower rates on income up to $1 million, but because it allowed higher rates to kick in on income above $1 million, Republicans interpreted it as a de facto vote for higher taxes, which they perceive as wholly unacceptable under any circumstances.
Tomorrow, the rules of the game change. It may seem like semantics, but after midnight, the rates go up automatically. Given this, if the Senate approves a package that applies lower rates to income up to $450,000 and higher rates on all income above $450,000, that vote is qualitatively different tomorrow than today -- before midnight, it's a vote to allow rates to go up on the very wealthy; after midnight, the rates for the wealthy would literally stay the same because they will have already gone up.
But have a happy new year anyway!