"Senate leaders have reversed course and decided to stage showdown votes later today on rival Democratic and Republican plans for extending broad tax cuts next year that will otherwise expire in January," The Associated Press writes.
So, Democrats will get the chance to cast "yea" votes on their plan to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts only for those earning less than $250,000 a year. Republicans will get the chance to cast "yea" votes on their plan to extend the tax cuts for everyone.
Neither measure will first need to get the support of 60 senators just to come to a vote. Senate leaders have agreed to suspend that rule, the AP says.
But as The Hill points out, even if Democrats (who have a bare majority in the Senate, thanks to the support of two independents) pass their version, "it has little prospect of becoming law because revenue-raising measures must originate in the House and House Republicans will not pass a bill to end the Bush tax cuts for any income brackets."
So they've set votes that likely won't mean anything but will give each side the chance to say they voted "for" their plans. That underscores why Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein recently listed "14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever." He began with a graphic showing that unless this latest session has a sudden burst of bipartisan bohomie (which is unlikely), it will have passed fewer laws than any since 1947.
Update at 6:20 p.m. ET. Senate Approves One Bill:
The Senate voted to approve the continuation of tax cuts for Americans earning $200,000 a year and couples earning $250,000 a year.
"The $250 billion Democratic measure would extend tax cuts in 2013 for millions of Americans that otherwise would expire in January," the AP reports.