Here are some of the scenarios for how Washington could address the wave of tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit next week:
Lower the bar, and just pass something
Lawmakers on Sunday began to talk about the possibility of a scaled-down package. In this scenario, Congress could basically give President Obama what he wants on taxes — a bill that extends current rates for those making under $250,000, while allowing taxes to rise for top earners. Or they could choose a different threshold.
Give House Republicans what they want
The House has already passed a bill to extend the Bush-era tax rates for all. Plus the House has passed a bill to replace automatic spending cuts with reductions elsewhere in the budget. Theoretically, an exasperated Harry Reid could just call up the bill (or bills) for a vote in the Senate and, with a few Democratic supporters, pass the thing.
Give Senate Democrats and Obama everything they want
The Senate has passed a bill to extend rates only for those making under $250,000.
Likewise, an exasperated John Boehner could call up that bill for a vote in the House and, with several dozen Republicans joining the entire Democratic caucus, pass it. To really give Obama what he wants, though, Congress would have to include some guarantee that the debt ceiling will rise by early 2013 without a mega-fight over more budget cuts.