Sens. John McCain, left, and Jon Kyl leave the Senate chamber to caucus in the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 30. (Molly Riley / AFP via Getty Images)
After Pentagon and industry officials remove the cellophane from their 2013 calendars, they should circle two dates in red: March 1 and March 27.
The Senate-passed fiscal cliff and sequestration deal brokered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Vice President Biden sets a March 1 deadline for the passage of legislation that substantially cuts the federal deficit.
If Congress and the White House fail to act by March 1, across-the-board cuts to planned Pentagon and domestic spending would be implemented via sequestration on March 27, according to the legislation.
The Senate, just after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, easily approved a measure hammered out by McConnell and Biden that raises tax rates on individuals earning more than $400,000 annually and couples making above $450,000 annually. It also addresses the estate tax and reforms the capital gains tax.
The controversial deal also delays by two years big cuts to planned domestic and defense spending, a move hailed by pro-military GOP hawks in the Senate.
The House still must approve the legislation, but it is unclear just when the lower chamber will vote.
Just after 11 a.m., House GOP leaders released the day’s floor schedule. The Biden-McConnell bill was not included on the docket.
House members say they want time to review the legislation. The measure is expected to pass on the back of Democratic support. It will need 217 votes to pass. The House has 201 Democratic members, meaning some Republicans will have to support the measure.
There are questions whether it will pass because conservative lawmakers are enraged that it allows tax rates on high earners to increase.
During a series of interviews Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, lawmakers from both parties told Defense News they needed to pass something to keep financial markets stable.
U.S. markets are closed Jan. 1 for the New Year’s Day federal holiday, meaning the House could approve the bill, followed by President Obama’s signature — all before the markets reopen Jan. 2.