President Obama will leave Hawaii tonight and arrive in Washington early Thursday morning, but not all of Congress will be here to greet him. While the Senate is set to gavel into session Thursday, the House has nothing on its schedule for the week. Members are still all back in their districts and have been told they will receive 48 hours notice if they are needed in Washington.

That means it is up to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Obama to craft a legislative solution to the impending $4.6 trillion in tax hikes and $900 billion in spending cuts that are scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

Senate Democrats already passed an extension of current tax rates for all incomes below $250,000 in August. But that bill did nothing to address the scheduled spending cuts or the expiration of extended unemployment benefits. Senate Democrats are expected to craft a similar bill that would address all three problems (tax hikes on incomes below $250,000, delay the sequester, and extend unemployment benefits) beginning Thursday. Then, Democrats hope, the House would be forced to pass the Senate measure just as they were forced to accept Senate versions of the 2011 payroll tax cut extension and the debt limit deal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not said yet whether he would filibuster such a bill, but it already appears he does not have the votes to stop it. Moderates like Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., have already signaled that they would break ranks to support such a measure. “If we get down to the end of this year and the only choice we have is to save taxes going up on the middle class, then I would support that,” Isakson said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

If the Senate does pass a bill it will almost assuredly raise taxes far higher than Speaker John Boehner’s, R-Ohio, Plan B legislation would have. But conservatives lost their opportunity to limit the tax hike when they rejected Plan B last Thursday.

From The Washington Examiner
Examiner Editorial: Abolish the payroll tax
Sean Higgins: Big Labor’s next move against Wal-Mart
Phil Klein: Income threshold isn’t all that matters in ‘fiscal cliff’ debate
Byron York: Journalists rush to take sides in gun debate
Tim Carney: The cultural impacts of growing singlehood and childlessness

In Other News
The Wall Street Journal, Refi Program Expansion Eyed: The Obama administration is considering expanding its mortgage-refinancing programs to include borrowers whose mortgages aren’t backed by the government and who owe more than their homes are worth, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The New York Times, Legal Curbs Said to Hamper A.T.F. in Gun Inquiries: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is hamstrung by legislative restrictions and by loopholes in federal gun laws, many law enforcement officials and advocates of tighter gun regulations say.
The Washington Post, FreedomWorks tea party group nearly falls apart in fight between old and new guard: The day after Labor Day, former-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, staged an armed coup of the FreedomWorks Capitol Hill offices.
Politico, Police probe NBC’s David Gregory on gun clip: The Washington Metropolitan Police Department is investigating whether any city laws were violated when NBC’s David Gregory displayed what appeared to be a 30-round gun magazine on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Righty Playbook
Stabilization Won’t Save Us by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
The ‘Open for Business’ Tax Plan by Anrew Moylan and Eli Lehrer.

Lefty Playbook
The Economic Policy Institute’s top charts of 2012.
The New Republic‘s Molly Redden makes the case for Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense.
Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall makes the case for Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.