Gridlock Easing As Deals Start Flowing On Capitol Hill

The annual lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree always signals two things in Washington -- the kickoff of the holiday season and the beginning of deal cutting time in Congress.

So just 24 hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed the button to illuminate an environmentally friendly Christmas tree, Capitol Hill Democrats are starting to make deals and potentially sacrifice campaign promises in order to make the legislative machinery work.

On Thursday night, Senate Democrats passed a temporary fix to the alternative minimum tax. They also cut a deal to vote on an energy bill Friday, and if the controversial tax and renewable energy proposals are stripped, Congress may actually pass a historic increase in gas mileage standards. House and Senate negotiators on Thursday also announced breakthroughs on the stalled defense authorization bill, and cut a deal to ban torture in the annual intelligence authorization bill.

In the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), for the first time publicly admitted that Democrats will likely give President Bush a no-strings attached troop funding bill for Iraq. Asked by Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), whether Democrats would provide the war money and relent on their push for troop withdrawal, Hoyer said Thursday "I anticipate at some point in time that would be the case."