By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
DEAL BREAKERS? The agreement reached between the White House and Congressional leaders to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years while ensuring that unemployment benefits reach the long-term jobless, among other measures, stoked ire among President Obama’s liberal base, angered Democratic members of Congress and is forcing Vice President Joe Biden to Capitol Hill today to lobby members of his own party toward the compromise. Even as he announced the deal last night, the president expressed disappointment: “I have no doubt that everyone will find something in this compromise that they don’t like. In fact, there are things in here that I don’t like — namely the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the wealthiest estates,” President Obama said. “It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery.”
But not everyone was buying the president’s argument. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., issued a scathing statement Monday night: “This is a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party and the Nation. I can tell you with certainty that legislative blackmail of this kind by the Republicans will be vehemently opposed by many if not most Democrats, progressives, and some Republicans who are concerned with the country’s financial budget. I for one will do everything in my power to make certain that legislation along these lines does not pass during the lame duck session.” Meanwhile, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is circulating a letter among House colleagues in which he writes: “We support extending tax cuts in full to 98 percent of American taxpayers, as the President initially proposed. He should not back down. Nor should we.” Several members have already signed on and he is collecting more signatures today before sending it to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., made it clear last night: “The House Democrats have not signed off on any deal.
BIDEN ON THE JOB. Corralling House Democrats is going to be a challenge, and ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that as part of the White House’s full court press to seal the tax deal, Vice President Biden will head to the Senate today to lean on Democratic members. Tapper notes that the White House has two arguments to use with “frustrated” Democrats: “1) We wanted a fight on these tax cuts, and Congressional Democrats never took up the charge and held a vote; 2) This is a good deal — and we weren't willing to let taxes go up on middle class Americans, or to deprive the unemployed of insurance benefits, just to prove a political point.” http://abcn.ws/ikiLPF
THE MATH. Senate Democrats like Tom Harkin wasted little time in griping about the deal, ABC’s Matthew Jaffe notes. “To say that I am disappointed with the deal the president laid out tonight is an understatement,” Harkin said in a statement Monday night. “Senate Republicans have successfully used the fragile economic security of our middle class and the hardship of millions of jobless Americans as bargaining chips to secure tax breaks for very wealthiest among us.” Jaffe games out the chances for passage in both houses: In the Senate, all 42 Republicans are likely on board, one Congressional Democratic aide said. That leaves 18 Democrats who will have to be convinced. Add in Democrats like Joe Lieberman, I-Ct., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Jim Webb, D-Va., and others who want the tax cuts extended for all Americans, you’re close to 50. Plus, there are others like Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who have pieces such as the estate tax included in the compromise, so now you’re only a handful of votes away, and suddenly the road to 60 looks less daunting. Over in the House, however, Democrats have a wider majority and they’re more reactionary. “The sense is that this is not a great deal and it’s not going to be easy sledding with the caucus, but it will be rougher sledding in the House,” the aide said.
BLAME GAME. A senior White House official tells Jake Tapper, "We wanted a fight, the House didn't throw a punch," the official said. "The House wouldn't vote before the Senate, and the Senate was afraid they'd lose a vote on it. … It was like the Jets versus Sharks except there weren't any Jets … Senator Schumer says he wants a fight? He couldn't hold his caucus together.” Not so, says one top House Democratic aide. “They've showed a total lack of leadership vis-a-vis House Democrats on almost every issue including this one," and “I think they really don't know how to deal with the House Dems.” http://abcn.ws/ikiLPF
CASUALTIES OF COMPROMISE. Meanwhile, t’s all anger on the left. “President Obama let down millions of voters who trusted him when he said he would fight for his core campaign promise — ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich,” Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor, co-founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in a statement last night. “When faced with Republican politicians whose position was overwhelmingly opposed by Democratic, Independent, and Republican voters alike, President Obama caved in the name of compromise.” But, could it all work out for Obama in the end? The Hill’s Sam Youngman notes: “By agreeing to a two-year extension of the cuts, Obama appears to be gambling that he — and the economy — will be in a better position to define the debate in 2012, when it could be more fruitful for Obama to sell a tax hike for the rich as part of an effort to lower the national debt. … Privately, both White House and Republican aides say they would love to have a fight over the high-end tax cuts as a central 2012 campaign issue.” http://bit.ly/eE8elF
OTHER PRIORITIES. Roll Call’s David Drucker reports on more stalling with the START Treaty: “The prospects of the Senate considering the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty during the lame-duck session are growing increasingly dim, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday. … Durbin conceded that Republican resistance could push the ratification debate to next year, despite Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) insisting that it remains on the Democrats’ list of items to address before Christmas. … ‘I’ve got some mixed signals here,’ Durbin said Monday afternoon during a brief interview. ‘There are some on the Democratic side that thought we were in good shape to call it before we left, and to act on it. And, then over the weekend, Sen. Kyl said it would not be called during the lame-duck session. So, I can’t tell you exactly where we are today.’ http://bit.ly/fawPoI
And the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy may also be pushed off into next year, as the New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller notes: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates cast doubt Monday that the Senate would vote before the end of the year to allow gay men and women to serve openly in the armed forces. … ‘I’d have to say I’m not particularly optimistic that they’re going to get this done,’ he told sailors aboard [aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea], although he added, ‘I would hope that they would.’ … Mr. Gates repeated his concern that if Congress did not act on the legislation, the courts might overturn the policy on their own. His greatest fear, he said, is that ‘we will be told to implement it without any time for preparation for training.’” http://nyti.ms/gueSjo
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Amy Walter and Jonathan Karl interview Delaware Sen. Chris Coons about his first weeks in the Senate and, of course, the white-hot tax debate raging on Capitol Hill. Also on the program, Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
POLITICIAL PUNCH: In this week's “Political Punch” digital show, Jake Tapper spoke with New York Times foreign correspondent David Rohde and his wife about his seven months being held by the Taliban — and what they think of the Wikileaks cables. Rohde and his wife Kristen Mulvihill wrote the new book "A Rope And a Prayer" which tells their amazing story. From the interview: Tapper: Did you think you were never going to see David again? Mulvihill: I had to entertain the idea that he might not come home. But I never did that for very long. I just had to keep going and think positive and get through each day, one day at a time.” Also on “the show, acclaimed director Tom Hooper, whose new film “The Kings Speech” is garnering intense early Academy award buzz for its depiction of King George VI’s struggle with his speech impediment. Watch “Political Punch”: http://abcn.ws/h07ycD
ELIZABETH EDWARDS UPDATE. ABC’s Emily Friedman and Claire Shipman report: “Elizabeth Edwards, recently released from the hospital where she was admitted over Thanksgiving, has stopped all cancer treatment, her family announced [on Monday]. Edwards … was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. ‘Elizabeth has been advised by her doctors that further treatment of her cancer would be unproductive,’ said a statement released by Edwards' family. ‘She is resting at home with family and friends.’ A close friend of the Edwards family told ABC News that John Edwards is among those who are at her side. The friend described the environment at the house as warm and peaceful. The mood was sad, but also full of warm feelings too. The friend said Elizabeth is not in pain, and is at peace with what is happening. The children, the friend said, are doing ‘OK.’” http://abcn.ws/fSyTf3
WATERS’ PLAY. Politico’s Jonathan Allen reports: “Rep. Maxine Waters will try to turn the tables on the Ethics Committee Tuesday by calling on the House to launch an investigation into the panel's suspension of two staff lawyers, including the lead attorney in the pending case against the California Democrat.
In a harshly worded privileged resolution accusing the committee of denying her due process by postponing her trial and conducting business in a way that invites ‘public ridicule’ and ‘contempt for the ethics process,’ Waters will ask the House to vote on creating a bipartisan task force to probe the decision to place Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign on indefinite administrative leave. Her resolution would force the task force to report back its findings before the end of the current Congress in a few weeks.” http://politi.co/hOSH9p
PALIN ON BAILOUTS. “Do insolvent states actually believe other states should bail them out?” former Aslaksa Gov. Sarah Palin wrote on her Facebook page today. “In my remarks as Governor of Alaska, I warned against President Obama’s debt-ridden stimulus bill and its effect on all our state budgets. I believed that the bill’s benefits would be limited because government would grow exponentially, and I warned that the package was equivalent to a federal bribe with fat strings attached that created new unfunded mandates for state governments. … American taxpayers should not be expected to bail out wasteful state governments.” More from Palin's latest message: http://on.fb.me/fRwcjP
@AriFleischer: Obama is trying to do one of the hardest things for a Pres to do – govern from the center. What's bad for Pelosi is good for the country.
@michaelscherer: This morning, for a fleeting moment, Republicans seem to be acting more Keynsian than Democrats.
* Get The Note delivered to your inbox every day.